Raising compassionate children who do not bully, help stop bullying and stay resilient in the face of bullying is an admirable goal for any parent. Still, it can be intimidating to know where and how to start. By understanding some key points about bullying, inclusion and exclusion, you can be a better example to your kids and be better equipped to help them help themselves if they ever face a bully.
Understand How They Interact
The first thing you want to learn about inclusion, exclusion and bullying is how they interact. It can seem obvious that some forms of exclusion can be bullying, specifically the forms which see a group of children repeatedly excluding one child in their class or playgroup. What is less obvious is that teaching inclusion is an excellent way to stop that form of bullying and to teach unintentional bullies the harm that exclusion can cause.
Set a Good Example
Children learn by example from parents, teachers, peers or media. An excellent example of inclusion can be seen in a new character Bruno Thomas and Friends has added to their lineup. Bruno is autistic and the first character with autism on the show. By including this character and showing how others can interact with the unique challenges autistic people face, Thomas and Friends are setting an example for the audience. By showing your children inclusive media and being inclusive yourself, you are showing them that being different is more normal than not and that including all types of people in play can be fun. Try to reach out to people in your area with diverse backgrounds and experiences to model inclusion, compassion and diversity to your family.
Explaining to your children how there are many different abilities, cultures and religions in the world and that those differences can lead to more exciting interactions and learning new things will help them understand that being different doesn’t mean “bad” and is not something to be avoided. While it can be tempting to try and ignore the differences in those around us, kids are naturally curious and will ask why other people look, talk or act differently than they do. These conversations are usually uncomfortable, especially since children tend not to have a filter and bring the subject up while behind a person who uses a wheelchair or someone of a different ethnic background in line at the grocery store. Fortunately, most people will understand what you are trying to teach if you can gently explain that everyone is different and unique and save more detailed and in-depth explanations for privacy.
Teach Compassion and Empowerment
Teaching your children how to be compassionate to others and to feel empowered by their differences is critical to combatting any bullying they encounter, intentional or not. For instance, if a differently-abled student is in their class, a compassionate child will seek ways to play that can include everyone instead of excluding any student. Similarly, if your child is bullied by differences they have from their peers, you can help empower him or her by embracing some of the unique quirks that others may not see. For instance, your autistic son could have a powerful imagination that can create magical worlds to play in with their friends, or your ADHD daughter could be the fastest kid in class.
Along with being compassionate to the differences of others and empowered by their differences, it is vital to encourage individuality in your children so they value the uniqueness of others. By boosting your children to develop individual talents and interests and showing them how unique skill sets can work together for better success, you will teach them to value differences. You can show your children that inclusion can result in better outcomes than exclusion.
Battling bullying is not easy; unfortunately, your children and you will have to deal with bullies periodically throughout life. By modeling traits such as inclusion, compassion and individuality, you can help minimize bullying by exclusion in those around you. This can help your children have better school and play experiences and help your peers feel included in your activities.