Bullying happens all around us. It’s prevalent in homes, work environments, schools and now more than ever, the internet.
The effects of bullying have serious lasting problems and are linked to many negative outcomes, including impacts on mental health, substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
These problems not only affect the people being bullied. They also affect the person with the bullying behavior.
Unfortunately, growing up I was a school ground bully. The past memories of the hurtful things I occasionally said or did to other children have affected my life with immense shame and guilt.
Although I have forgiven myself, the memories are always with me. I’ve done many years of reflection, (especially after having my own daughters), about why I was a childhood bully.
My education as an early childhood educator and experience working with children give me great insight into ways we can prevent our future generation from becoming bullies.
Taking a stand against bullying by teaching our children courage is an integral way to put an end to bullying behavior.
However, fostering empathy, kindness, and compassion are the first step in bullying prevention.
Here is one of my bullying stories that I courageously shared in a blog post last year:
In elementary school, I had a best friend. I loved this friend of mine. I loved the smell of the pert plus shampoo in her hair. I loved her beautiful, home with the hot tub and trampoline in the yard. I loved how her parents used a gentle tone in the home. I loved her athletic ability. She could do front and back walkovers, making them look so easy.I especially loved the color of her big blue eyes. I loved everything about her and her life so much that I began to compare myself and my life with hers, which led to deep insecurities and jealousy.
One school day, I randomly decided that I didn’t want to be friends with my best friend any longer. Whatever compelled me to suddenly hate her out of the blue, in hindsight, came from my lack of happiness, jealousy, and insecurities. I told her to meet me in the top field at recess and I gathered some other children with me. I had a Slurpee and crew of children following me. The walk to the field with the other children following me, made me feel tough and cool. I was the leader of the pack. When she got to the field, I stood in front of her and looked her directly in the face. A whirl of butterflies swished around in my insides as I lifted my right hand with the ice-cold Slurpee in it and forcefully chucked it directly on her. The Slurpee splattered on her shirt while some of the other kids laughed. But her face in that moment… I will always remember. Her eyes instantly welled with tears as she turned around and ran away.
I vividly remember her tears of sadness as we sat in the principles office together. “Why did you do that to me?” she asked while tears streamed down her cheeks. I remember crying with her as I apologized, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did it.”
In retrospect, If I knew that this incident was going to cause so much hurt and pain, I obviously wouldn’t have done it. If I knew at that age I held within me the ability to be a leader, then I would have used this ability to teach the other children being kind is “cool”.
I recall so vividly, another childhood memory of being yelled at, on the playground, from a parent of one of the children I bullied. This parent told me I was an awful child and I didn’t deserve any friends because I was so mean.
She was right.
I was being mean.
And she had every right to directly approach me about my behavior.
However, she deeply hurt my feelings when she said I didn’t deserve any friends.
Everyone needs a friend.
My friends just didn’t deserve to be treated that way by me.
What this parent didn’t realize is that she damaged my self-worth more than it already was.
If she only knew, that being screamed at was what happened to me at home.
If she only knew… I just needed a hug.
If she only knew..how hurt I felt inside.
This parent didn’t want her child to be a victim of bullying, yet her approach toward me was that of a bully.
Her finger pointed directly at my face, her facial expression, and tone of voice full of anger and rage.
Her words were harsh and mean.
If only she approached me with the intent to understand why I was bullying her daughter, then she would have led by example to her daughter, what it means to be empathetic. And empathy is the best way to prevent bullying.
My hope is that by courageously sharing my bullying story, it gives the perspective from both sides.
Bullying is complex.
There are many factors that contribute to this type of behavior.
For example, in my case, it came from a place of insecurity, trying to be “cool”, stress, abuse, hurt and lack of empathy.
Bullying was, unfortunately, my way of dealing with the issues I carried within and at such a young age, I was unable to articulate these feelings.
In other words, my mental health was suffering which led to my disruptive behavior.
My behavior was unacceptable and I can’t take back any of the hurtful things I said or did to other children.
I can only move forward, by teaching my daughters and inspiring others, to live their life with kindness, compassion, and empathy.
Essentially, if we want to prevent our children from being a bully or a victim of a bully, then we need to be the change and lead by example.
Pink Shirt Day is quickly approaching. I hope Pink Shirt Day reminds you everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.
Let’s wear pink shirts on Pink Shirt Day to show kindness and compassion for all…even the bullies.
*Net proceeds of the Pink Shirt Day merchandise (including buttons, teddy bears, bracelets and more), as well as all donations, go directly to organizations that support children’s healthy self-esteem, teaching empathy and kindness.
For more info visit Where Your Donations Go page.
More tips and resources to prevent bullying for parents, teachers & kids, courtesy of Red Cross Canada here: https://www.pinkshirtday.ca/resources/