On Wednesday, March 16, four members of the Ida County Blaine Clovers 4-H Club gave a presentation on the Hands & Words Are Not For Hurting Project ® to the Ida County Extension Council. It was great to see the passion and commitment that these young people had for this program. The program is an anti-bullying campaign that works for them in their school and community. The pledge is "I WILL NOT USE MY HANDS OR MY WORDS FOR HURTING MYSELF OR OTHERS"®. The pledge encourages dialogue about all forms of abuse and violence, from name calling, put downs, and negative self talk (I'm stupid, ugly...); words that can escalate to harming ourselves or others.
One definition of bullying is "when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person." Some of the ways bullies act to others include: saying or writing nasty things about them, leaving them out of activities, threatening or scaring them, not talking to them, taking or damaging their things, hitting or kicking them, or making them do things they don't want to do.
Have any of these things happened to you? Have you done any of these things to someone else? It is not just "kids being kids" or just a conflict between children, it is a power play on the part of the bully.
There are lots of reasons why some people bully. They may see it as a way of being popular, or making themselves look tough. They bully to gain attention, or to make others afraid of them. Others might be jealous of the person they are bullying or maybe they are being bullied themselves by someone else.
Bullies tend to zero in on children who appear an "easy target' for some reason. Children who are picked on are usually passive, sensitive, quiet, or stand out in some way: perhaps they are taller or shorter, wear braces, are a different color or religion, have an unusual name, talk differently or have a physical disability.
At the same time, youngsters who may be aggressive or annoying and seek negative attention from peers, also tend to get picked on. Both passive and aggressive children tend to have few friends, and, therefore, few allies to rally to their defense in a sticky situation.
Is there any way of "bully-proofing" your child? You can help your child develop a psychic bully-proof vest to deflect insults and physical abuse that bullies like to dish out. It's never too early to begin laying this foundation for self-preservation. Here are some thoughts on how to help your child:
* Teach your child self-respect. A confident child is less likely to be assaulted by a bully.
* Let your children know it's OK to express anger or dissatisfaction. Letting your children stand up to you now and then makes it more likely they will stand up to a bully. Teach your children to be respectful to you and others while being assertive.
* Stress the importance of body language. Verbally asserting oneself is not very effective if one's body language tells another story. Teach children to hold themselves confidently, relax their bodies (deep breathing helps), and maintain frequent eye contact. These practices will help youngsters seem self-assured, even if they are not.
* Encourage friendships. Children who are loners tend to be more vulnerable to bullies. Start early to help your children develop friendships and build social skills.
* Teach your children to express themselves clearly. Help your youngster learn to use "I" statements. When children know how to express themselves without stepping on other people's toes, they tend to get along better with peers.
Bullying is hateful and hurtful. On March 16, it was wonderful to witness young people addressing this negative topic in a positive and sincere way.