Stop The Bully Labeling

Stop the Bully Labeling


KidSafe Parenting Help
Bullying is a label given to many children. Bullying is a form of abuse. We at KidSafe Foundation believe it is just that..ABUSE. What we reject and want to challenge is the thought of labeling a child a “Bully, a Victim or a Bystander.” As adults we all know exactly what all those terms or labels mean, and guess what our children do too. As adults we have the ability to also reflect on a child and see more than just a “Bully” and see the other qualities a “Bully” may have (or so we hope adults are able to do that.) Children however have a harder time seeing the whole child. Once a child has been given a label that label can follow them throughout their life.
We recently provided a Bullying Reduction Workshop for Administration and Teachers at a school that has had our KidSafe 8 week program each year. It was eye opening. First and foremost these teachers care so much about their students. It was evident that each of them became a teacher because somewhere in their life they had a teacher that influenced them in some way to help children. It was also evident that this school was no different from your child’s school and that Bullying is a pervasive problem and they are looking for intervention. We applaud this administration for opening the doors to a problem that has been “life long” and seems to have no hope of completely going away.
We take a systemic approach to decreasing bullying in schools. It takes everyone including the administration, teachers, support staff, parents and students to make real change. We know bullying can be reduced. We have seen it happen.
So back to the focus for this blog: when we label our children as “bully”, “target”, “bystander” these labels can follow these children for life. They start to believe they are “what we tell them they are” and in our view, this negative self-fulfilling prophecy has to stop. We need to focus on the behaviors of our children and empower them with words that can build hope and inspire them to make better decisions.
For example when you the adult see a child “bully” another child, we the adults have to stop and think and make better choices for how we respond to the child who is being mean, “Billy I saw what you did, or heard what you said and that was hurtful, I know you can make a better choice.” It is in our tone, it is in our voice, it is in our demeanor and how we talk to these children. Now the shy child, you may focus on and think “target.” Now the child believes it too! “Oh I’m shy” and this child begins to see that as a negative, which it does not have to be.
Instead we need to give children support and strategies for how to handle uncomfortable and abusive situations. We need to give them a voice. Teach them how how to respond to a child who is mean to them? For some children assertiveness comes naturally. But for the majority of children they need to be coached, talked to and perhaps given exactly how to respond in these types of situations. Children need to know trusted adults are available for help and how to approach these adults when they need assistance. Early intervention to reduce bullying behaviors is the obvious key. The education of our children and the empowerment of each child to know that yes they can make a better choice needs to start as early as preschool.
But, most of all as adults we need to be watching and paying attention to the subtle and obvious behaviors of children so there can be ongoing early intervention. If an adult does not intervene when a child is being hurtful to another child, the child doing the hurtful behavior thinks he can get away with it, that there is nothing wrong with this type of behavior and there are no consequences. The child who is receiving the hurtful behavior thinks the adult not only can’t help, but does not care. Two things we NEVER want a child to feel.
So we at KidSafe Foundation ask you to stop labeling children and start focusing on changing behaviors, paying more attention, empowering children to make the “right” choices in how they treat people. And when appropriate, advocate for the children to get them the services they need before their behaviors have life altering effects. Think about your own child, do you want the label of Bully, Bystander or Target to follow them through their life or do you want to let your child know that YOU know they can change their behavior?
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Author: Sally Berenzweig MEd, MA

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