Preventing BullyingBullying, like other forms of violence, is all about power – power over, loss of personal power, power imbalances, and the abuse of power. The question of power, and the use of power, is therefore key to preventing bullying.
Striving for EmpowermentAs adults we have more power than our children, and as such, our daily interactions with our children and their peers can serve as a model for the positive use of power. By reflecting on our use of power as adults we can use our power with integrity and transparency. In this way, our interactions with our chilren promote their well-being and healthy development.
This is known as facilitating young people’s “empowerment”. Fundamentally, parents and guardians facilitate children’s and teens’ empowerment when they respect their basic human dignity and their rights to be “safe, strong and free” on a daily basis and in all their interactions.
We can also help develop children’s and teens’ capacities by encouraging them to think through problems and find their own solutions. Building these skills, increasing their choices and options in daily life, will mean that they are better equipped to make decisions when they encounter difficulties. Strategies that increase young people’s ability to make decisions and take action to protect themselves reduce their likelihood of being bullied.
Helping them develop their self-esteem also allows them to see that they have important strengths and inner resources that they can call upon to resolve a bullying situation, or to get help when needed.
This helps foster children’s and teens’ positive perception of themselves, which in turn has a real impact on reducing their vulnerability to being bullied or collaborating in this anti-social behaviour.
Building children’s and teens’ self-esteem is central to bullying prevention. Developing their ability to recognize and accept their own and others’ strengths, differences and limitations leads to a greater ability to respect differences among others and engage in healthy relationships.
Young people who feel good about themselves and accept themselves as they are do not need to have a sense of power or superiority over others to feel good. They do not cease to accept themselves as they are when they make a mistake, are unlucky or have interpersonal problems, even if they are emotionally shaken by the challenges that life puts in their way.
As adults, we play a central role in helping young people develop a core belief in their own intrinsic self-worth. Each day presents a multitude of opportunities on many levels to interact with our children in a way that allows them to accept and respect themselves and others.
Sometimes parents and guardians do not realize that they already use bullying prevention strategies. These are simply based on their experiences and what they think are fair, appropriate and conducive to the establishment of a positive culture in their children’s lives.
Bullying prevention is not only for those within the field of "experts." The words and behaviours of many people help to build a culture that perpetuates bullying. The same goes for the prevention of bullying, which stems from the daily choices of individuals operating in the school and community. Culture is rooted in all the words we use and the many small things we do to (or for) the people around us.
At COPA we believe that young people need support and guidance in gaining the skills and tools required to navigate and succeed in their schools. Rules can help them learn what not to do, but TOOLS give them the capacity to make choices and take actions to change their own reality.
Suggestions - Parenting for Empowerment:
- Helping children and teens express themselves, to connect with and express a range of emotions, in a constructive fashion.
- Listening very carefully when children and teens talk to us, and taking their experiences and feelings seriously. Making sure they feel seen and heard.
- Acknowledging that abuse and violence do exist, and that they are not acceptable.
- Focusing on what our children and teens can do, rather than on what they can’t do (or should do, or shouldn’t do).
- Recognizing and nurturing our children’s and teens’ talents, skills and abilities.
- Believing in the concept of peer support, and encouraging our children’s and teens’ ability to champion others when needed.
- Fostering a home environment where kindness and compassion for everyone are considered important values.
- Discussing the issue of rights and responsibilities (for example, the right to feel “safe, strong and free”) – their own, and each others’.
- Providing our children and teens with plenty of opportunities to make decisions, be in charge, take initiative and share responsibility.
- Fostering healthy communication and conflict resolution strategies, when appropriate.