In addition to being the month of Halloween and the last month of sanity before the holiday rush arrives on November 1, October also serves as National Bullying Prevention Month. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to practice and observe anti-bullying methods in your classroom, office, or home.
1. Practice Compassion
When most people hear the word “bullying,” they generally tend to think of a person being cruel, aggressive, and mean to other people. That’s not acceptable, but “bullying” can apply to other situations, too.
Anyone can misinterpret words and actions as bullying when the person had no intention of causing pain. We’re not talking about making excuses for someone actively being a bully, but rather the overriding need to practice compassion in social situations to limit the possibility of unintentional bullying.
For example, a person sitting by themselves at lunch may notice other people glancing their way and laughing. Even the most socially active person could mistake those glances as bullying, since they lack the context of the person’s actions.
The easiest way to practice compassion starts with being genuinely respectful of everyone around them. Don’t make the mistake of confusing “respect” with “submission;” practicing respect does not immediately force a person to accept the unacceptable.
It’s not enough to say “bullying will not be tolerated” if the people don’t know what bullying looks like.
So what does bullying look like? How can it be recognized? Who can do it? And how does bullying impact the overall environment in a school, office, or club? Cyberbullying gets a great deal of attention these days. Do you and your charges know how cyberbullying works and how it can be addressed?
In many cases, bullying involves a power imbalance, real or imagined, between two people that one person exploits for their own purposes. As such, bullying does not get limited to threats and physical violence. As previously stated, bullying does not get limited to what gets shown in movies and television; bullying can also be casual cruel remarks or gentle remarks meant to harass or demean someone.
Educate yourself and your people about bullying, then find the best methods to address those challenges.3. See Something, Say Something
If you witness other people behaving in a manner that suggests bullying, make an adult or supervisor aware of what you’ve seen.
This doesn’t mean “telling tales” and “sticking your nose into other people’s business;” bullying works in part by other people going out of their way not to get involved. Even if the situation ends up being about something other than bullying, it’s important to keep adults and supervisors informed about potential problems.
4. Constant Work
It’s important to establish an environment that will not tolerate bullying in any way. To do that, the people in charge have to constantly monitor for signs of bullying. And since they can’t see every instance, it’s very easy to relax standards when visible representations off the problems stop becoming obvious.
Creating and maintaining a safe environment can be like maintaining a vehicle or building a patio; in addition to starting the job, you’ve got to check in regularly to see how it’s holding up.
All of the above are important steps and require a lot of effort, but it’s worth. Being bullied can severely affect a person’s self-image, social interactions, and school (or work) performance and can lead to mental health problems. Let's all do our best to be advocates and prevent it!