Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

National Bullying Awareness Month
Bullying is not a "normal" part of growing up

by Heather Gerker

October 01, 2012

When my husband and I found out we were having a baby girl four years ago, I was scared. Along with all the stresses (and joys) that come along with raising a girl, I thought about my own childhood. Like many, I wish I could have skipped my adolescent years. While I’m at it, I think I’d like to have skipped my high school years, too!

When I think about those years, I think about being teased because my clothes weren’t the latest fashion, a picture circulating of me with a candybar leftover in my teeth, or realizing all of my friends were invited to a party while I was purposefully left out. Let’s face it, we all have those stories. I’m ashamed to admit I may have been the cause of others’ not-so-great memories, too. Sometimes joining in just seemed to be the easiest way to catch a break for myself.

But what we know now is bullying is not a “normal” part of growing up. It is now seen as a major public health issue. Bullying is the most common form of school violence. In a recent survey over half of teens 15-18 years old reported that they had been the victim of bullying or had bullied themselves. And bullying does significant and long lasting harm. Dr. Norman Anderson, President of the American Psychological Association stated: “Bullying is not a phase children have to go through. It is not just messing around. It is not something to grow out of. Bullying can cause serious and lasting harm.”

Bullying isn’t necessarily constant “picking on” another child. It can be as little as one comment made in passing. Remember that memory I have of not wearing fashionable clothes? I remember one moment precisely - in 6th grade, standing outside in line to go in from recess…another girl pointed and said, “that isn’t really Nike it just says that.” Other girls looked and everyone giggled. She was right but why did that matter? These memories stick. Recent research has debunked some common myths about bullies (Rodkin & Wilson, 2007). One myth is that bullies are hated or despised in school settings. As it turns out, aggressive boys in middle school may be among the most popular. Another myth is that bullies are compensating for insecurity and low self-esteem. The truth is that most bullies have average or above average self-esteem.

October is National Bullying Awareness Month. Let’s unite and bring awareness to bullying prevention. Across the nation, and internationally, anti-bullying campaigns have already been successful in reducing the amount of bullying. Some common elements of successful programs include: 1) Creating positive environments with engaged adults, 2) Setting absolute limits or tolerance of bullying, 3) Consistent consequences, and 4) Positive adult role models. At Growing Sound, a division of Children, Inc., we are developing a musical solution to bullying. We are using songs to promote empathy, teamwork, responsibility, acceptance and friendship. These are the prosocial skills that prevent bullying. For example, a song, “What if Everyone Did it Too?”, tells the story of children who reach out to support others who are having difficulties or who are less popular. The music of Growing Sound can easily be integrated into any anti-bullying campaign.

We all want something better for our children. Let’s not just stop with October, let’s consider how we can continue to bring awareness to bullying prevention. As PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center says, “The end of bullying begins with me.”