Combatting Bullying: Teaching Children Right From Wrong

Bullying. We’ve all heard this word used at some point or another, but do we actually understand what it is? It’s more than one child making another cry. It is actually a social situation in which a person or group of people use their power to repeatedly and intentionally cause pain or harm to another individual or group. It can take many forms, and its negative effects can be physical, emotional, or psychological as a result. It is not to be mixed up with other negative experiences, such as single acts of aggression, rejection, mutual arguments, or simply being disliked (these are other problems that need to be tackled in different ways). Now, bullying is most commonly associated with children at school, but it is a character trait and pattern of behavior that can stick with both the perpetrator and the victim for life. If a bully’s behavior isn’t stopped and rectified early on, they may continue to harm others for years to come. So, how can we combat bullying? Here are a few ways to teach little ones right from wrong at an early age!

Implement Measures to Equalise Children

Now, a lot of bullying can stem from circumstances that are out of the victim’s control. Many bullies pick out features of an individual which distinguish them as less fortunate than the bully in some way or another. This is why you often see children being bullied about the clothes that they wear - they are simple indicators of wealth, which a child has no means to change and which their parents may not have the opportunity to change either. This is why the majority of schools - the main sites where children socialize - implement uniforms. Various studies have found that wearing uniform can reduce bullying at school, as it levels the playing field and removes brands which bullies can use to identify and target individuals who do not necessarily fit in with the crowd.

Teach Children Acceptance and Understanding

While steps are taken to equalize children as much as possible may be an easy option for institutions, it is important that we also teach children acceptance and understanding. There are certain traits that bullies will pick at that cannot be changed, such as factors of an individual’s natural appearance that make them stand out from the crowd. But the truth is that these children should not feel ashamed of their appearance. They shouldn’t want to change it. In fact, everyone looks completely different to one another anyway, so to suggest that there is a norm to conform to in the first place is relatively questionable in itself. This is why it’s so important that we teach children about diversity and the beauty of diversity from a very young age. Here are a few simple ways to do this.

Exposure and Representation

Bullies target the unfamiliar. The more we expose our children to currently underrepresented groups, the more accepting they will be of these groups, as they will leave the realm of the unknown and become the familiar. While this may be relatively difficult when only engaging with mainstream media (which has a habit of representing the majority), it can be achieved by showing our children cartoons, books, films, and other materials from different places, times, and cultures that more accurately represent a wide variety of individuals. Our children should be aware of individuals who hail from different places, practice different religions, have different abilities, and stray from perceived “societal norms” in other ways.

Eliminate Binaries

We currently live in a society which exists on a premise of binaries. This means that children who identify between binaries are often bullied for failing to conform to their prescribed identity, or to any “recognized” identity. We can combat this by eliminating binaries when educating our children about identity. If you break down boundaries, the framework that bullies work from to alienate certain individuals from others in a group will no longer exist, making it much more difficult to pick on others for being themselves. This may seem a little difficult at first, as we ourselves are very much used to living with this binary attitude, but we need to make changes and lead by example, helping our little ones to understand along the way.

As you can see, bullying is a complex societal process, but it can be combated, and we can help to reduce bullying in any of the environments that children engage with. When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple. The key is to teach children that it’s okay to be themselves!

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