October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month: Stop Bullies in Their Tracks

Did you know that October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month? If you didn’t know, I am glad: maybe this means your kids have never been bullied. My 7th grader has recently been the victim of bullying at his middle school. We have witnessed first-hand the damage to a child’s sense of safety and self-esteem that can result from bullying.  But even if you haven’t had to worry about bullying, I still think it’s important that everyone take a few minutes to think about what they can do to stop bullies in their tracks, wherever the bullying might take place. Here are some quick facts about bullies and bullying.

Most bullies start bullying by age two and by kindergarten, a bully-in-the-making has already developed the ruthless skills necessary to quickly identify potential targets in classmates.

Bullies often bully–not because they enjoy it, but in order get relief for their own unhappiness. We often have the misconception that bullies enjoy bullying; instead, bullying reinforces their negative feelings, and causes them to continue targeting others. We need to help stop the cycle in its tracks.

Bullies are skilled at making sure grown-ups don’t catch them. I feel angry and frustrated with the teachers and staff at my son’s school for not catching bullying and teasing in action, but I also realize that they’re not seeing it because the bullies don’t intend for them to see it. Bullying is visible to all the kids at school, but grown-ups are usually blind to it. This is why I believe that in order for us to help bullying in schools end, we have to teach our kids to intervene for others, especially if our kids are in the top peer group at school. I have realized that every school in our country needs to move beyond mere policies on zero tolerance; they need to make specific efforts to train teachers, staff, and students in not only spotting bullies at a young age, but teaching the importance of peer intervention, and equipping students with specific skills so they won’t be targets anymore.

Bullying is an issue for all of us, regardless of who we are and what we believe in, politically and/or religiously; regardless of whether or not we have children, or plan to one day, or whether or not it’s Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Bullying is an issue we all need to take a stand on. It’s not enough to sit back and feel good that your child would never, ever be a bully. We need to teach our kids the importance of standing up for those who are the victims. We need to teach our kids that here is always unity and strength in numbers.

Alissa (Aliki) McElreath is a writer, teacher, editor, mama to two kids, vegan food eater, and book lover. She lives in North Carolina, but always secretly (and not so secretly) claims New York as home.
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