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Bullying and How it Affects Friendships

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With bullying being the #2 epidemic in the US today, I'm wondering what affect it has had on friendships. Are kids getting along better or worse?  Are they more tolerant of others and their behavior or not?  Are they aware of the need for kindness and empathy in their relationships with peers?  These are questions parents, educators, and researchers are asking.

For bullying to have escalated to the position it now has in our society leads to the conclusion that kids are not getting along any better.  When you consider that too many kids think that mean, rude and disrespectful behaviors, including bullying, are cool, you have a problem in re-educating them to understand that "cool" should be kind, caring, and respectful behaviors.  This is not so easy to do when they see friends who are considered "cool' getting a lot of attention with their negative behavior.  It seems the solution is to help kids learn that positive behaviors will gain them more friends.

Kids don't seem to be very tolerant of their peers.  They are seeing these negative behaviors starting in the home, and then they are often reinforced when they go to school.  They judge, shame, ridicule, exclude, and tease anyone who is different from them.  The differences might be race, religion, dress, nationality, sexual preference, or a disability.   It doesn't matter what it is, the result is the same, "If you aren't like me, then you can't be my friend, or you're no good."   The solution to this problem requires re-educating kids to learn that everyone is created equally, and deserves to be respected.  You don't have to be friends with everyone, but you do need to be accepting and tolerant of everyone in order to be a child that others want to have for their friend.

Kindness and empathy are two important qualities that none of us are born with.  They have to be taught, modeled and reinforced, from the time a child is old enough to interact with others.  These two qualities are key in stopping the bullying crisis.  Instilling these character values in kids can be done on a daily basis, in everyday interactions both with adults and with siblings and peers.  The earlier this training is started the more successful it will be.  I often wonder why we let things like this go until we get to the point where we have to go back and undo the damage and start over.  For kids to have good relationships and friendships with peers they need to learn the social skills, or manners, that guide them through their many everyday social encounters.  Social skills training includes every area of a child's daily interactions, not just table manners.

In our elementary curriculum, we have a whole lesson on friends; how to be a friend, how to have many friends, and friendship do's and don'ts.  Here are some of Fabulously Fun Friend Francie's Friendship Facts:

A Friend Is, Does, and Says...Put your friend first, Be kind, Be caring, Be considerate of your friend's feelings, Be truthful, Be polite, Stick up for your friends, Be trustworthy... more in my next blog. 

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