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From Incivility to Bullying to Violence - Our Kids are Caught in this Cycle!

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Did you know that bullying has escalated to be at epidemic proportions?  

More than 13 million children in the US are bullied every year. - TheBullyProject.com

90 percent of 4th to 8th graders report being victims of bullying. Physical bullying increases for elementary ages, peaks for middle school ages, and declines for high school ages. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant. With the introduction of the Internet, bullying, or specifically cyber-bullying, has taken on an entirely new dimension with its own form of social cruelty. These stats are just a sampling of a multitude of research addressing this problem, from DoSomething.org and others.

The Reality of Bullying Today

Bullying prevention and establishing healthy relationships for children are a top priority for parents, educators and kids. Parents today are frustrated that schools aren’t doing enough to stop school bullying; and educators are frustrated that parents aren’t sending their kids to school with the basic social skills needed to get along with others. This leaves our children stuck in the middle, just wanting the bullying to end. Our experience working with schools supports the trend we see that reactive based bullying prevention programs and solutions are not effective.

The Bullying Cycle

Numerous studies over the last 20-30 years have found that most Americans consider rudeness and incivility a serious problem in our society. Many of those studies have concluded that rude and obnoxious behavior has replaced good manners. Fast forward to today and we have to ask if we are seeing any improvement in the level of respect and courtesy in our nation. We’ve all encountered road rage, eaten in a restaurant next to unruly children whose parents are oblivious to their behavior, or watched a child be embarrassed by a parent at a game that is supposed to be fun.

Though many descriptions of the bullying cycle are available, the simplest is that it starts with rudeness or incivility, which leads to bullying, and can then escalate into violence. The challenge is breaking the cycle at the beginning, the rudeness or incivility, which is the easiest part of the cycle to address.

Research is now supporting social competence training, at young ages, as the missing link in bullying prevention.

Read:  Reducing bullying - Application of social cognitive theory by SM Swearer, C Wang, B Berry, ZR Myers.

It’s been reported that bullying is now starting in preschool, as young as age 3; which means this social skills training needs to be started as early as possible.

What Does Bullying Look Like?

Kids who bully come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and personalities. There are many theories on what constitutes bullying. 

StopBullying.gov has a concise definition: “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school- aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, with the likely potential for repetition.”

It includes teasing, staring, ignoring, name calling and put-downs, excluding, gossiping, and racial, religious, ethnic, or sexual orientation slurs. Bullying, or social cruelty, can center on weight or size issues, popularity, and economic status. Tattling is another form of bullying, but it’s important to stress to kids that reporting a child being hurt or bullied isn’t tattling. All of these things can be seen in physical, verbal, emotional, and online or cyber-bullying.

Read: 8 Things Kids Can Say or Do to Stop Bullying - huffingtonpost.com

Possible Situations for Escalation to Violence

  • A child or teen who is repeatedly bullied, who especially experiences exclusion or cyber-bullying
  • One with unresolved anger issues, family problems, or recent tragic events in their lives
  • Kids with a fascination for guns, other weapons, and violence
  • Those who follow radical or violent social media sites

Proactive Strategies for Your Home or School

  • First and foremost, model the behaviors you want your kids or students to embrace.
  • Early on, establish moral values for your family or classroom that will determine the behaviors you consider acceptable, and explain your reasons for those. These may include school guidelines.
  • Teach the behaviors you wish to see; making sure that they are understood.
  • Give additional guidance and direction as the behaviors are being learned.
  • Give praise when done well, and when it’s necessary to say, ‘let’s try again.’

Stand-Up, Speak-Up - Be an Upstander

Bystanders watch bullying from a safe distance; they don’t want the bully to turn on them and be their next victim. They often encourage the bully. While they may have compassion for the victim, they are powerless to intervene. They are unable to even get help or report the incident. Many are easily encouraged to participate in the bullying.

Upstanders, however, demonstrate a higher level of self-confidence, and bravery, in that they often try to intervene and talk the bully out of their actions. They report and/or get help, which they don’t consider to be tattling, since they are helping someone who is likely being hurt in some way, whether verbally or physically. 

We know that when kids step in to stop bullying, the incident of cruelty stops within 10 seconds more than 50% of the time. (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001)

The Impact of Bullying

These are some of the things that parents or educators need to look out for. Be aware of mood, attitude, emotional, or personality changes. Ask kids if they need to talk, are they okay, or how their day was. Stay active and involved in all of their social media so you can react appropriately to any cyber-bullying or similar issues.

Bullying can be prevented when proactive, ongoing social skills or social competence programs and activities are instituted in the earliest grades, or at the youngest ages. With award-winning music, fun characters and activities, Cool Kind Kid® curricula and products help young children learn important tools for healthy relationships with peers and for rejecting bullying.  

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