- At Home
The news is filled with stories of bullying--cyberbullying, bullycide, the Bully movie. It is everywhere. But what we need to recognize is that it is not about bullying. It is about resilience.
Resilience is our response to challenge--any challenge. Challenges can be small (sharing a toy, tying our shoes) and challenges can be big (being diagnosed with cancer, substance abuse, peer pressure, bullying). Bullying is merely one form of challenge that kids will face--and most kids will face some form of bullying in their lifetime.
In the news today, bullies are demonized and kids are receiving the label "bully" way too quickly. Bullying is a spectrum, and part of that spectrum is just kids trying to learn the art of social interaction--how can we include people? What if we don’t always want to include them? How can I make sure that I keep social status? Part of this is very normal. Kids are going to experiment with hurting other kids feelings. Does that make it ok? No. Just like a three-year old having a temper- tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. It is not ok, but we know that it is a part of the developmental process and that we need to teach him a different way to behave. The same is true of most bullying behaviors.
Don't get me wrong: there are some horrible bullying behaviors going on, and those need to be addressed. My point here is that they need to be addressed in a way that recognizes that kids need to go through a learning process. Additionally, we need to recgnize that part of resilience is integrity. We need to teach kids how to make powerful choices to stand for what is right. Those choices take courage but lead to integrity. And we need to do it with the recognition that making those choices doesn't come naturally.
Unfortunately, when we keep focusing on bullying, we are losing track of the teaching part of it, and we are also losing track of the fact that the same skills that we teach in handling these bullying situations are skills that can translate to any other challenge that kids face throughout their lives--they are resilience strategies.
Whenever we face a challenge, small or large, our response (resilience) is determined by our understanding of four things:
Self: What we think about who we are and what we stand for,
Situation: Our evaluation of the challenge,
Support: Our knowledge of who we can ask for help, and
Strategies: Our bank of specific strategies about how to handle the challenge.
Small challenges present us with teaching opportunities--chances to teach our children about the four Ss. Unfortunately, our immediate reactions take away those opportunities. Fortunately, we can learn how to stop those initial reactions and learn how to reframe challenges and take advantage of those teaching opportunities--it just takes a little bit of reframing and some practice. To learn more about how to do it, visit www.URresilient.com and click on the book--The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive--Not Reactive--Parenting.
Our children will benefit if we move away from the bully rhetoric and instead focus on resilience--how we can use challenges as opportunities to teach kids to handle challenges, big and small. It is a subtle difference--but incredibly empowering.
Donna Volpitta, Ed.D is a resilience expert and co-author of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive--Not Reactive--Parenting.