Protecting our Children

I was watching my son’s baseball game this past weekend, and overheard the banter that was taking place in the dugout.  While most kids were talking about the game, or getting ready for their turn at bat, there was one boy who was teasing another saying how he wasn’t a good player in the field or at bat. The boy being teased did not defend himself, but instead became quiet and a bit withdrawn.  Not wanting this to escalate, and having very little tolerance for teasing or bullying, I made sure the coaches were aware of what was going on so that the teasing would stop and the boy being teased would be able to focus on playing the game.  I realize that adults cannot step in every time there is a situation of unkind behavior, but we can teach children to protect themselves from becoming victim to ongoing teasing and bullying.  Children that stand up for themselves and do not tolerate unkind behavior, also feel empowered to stand up for others. 
Bullying is certainly not a new dilemma in today’s society, but thankfully our awareness and understanding of the toll it takes on young people has grown tremendously.  A no-bullying tolerance in schools, camps, and all places youth are being served has become the norm.  There are numerous campaigns, like the Cartoon Networks “Stop Bullying, Speak Up” and the National Crime Prevention Associations McGruff the crime dog, who teaches kids to “Stop, Talk and Walk”.  The message is that kids need to stop listening to the bullies, use their voices to tell them to stop, and then walk away, all leading to greater self-respect.  McGruff also advocates being a friend to the person being bullied so they are not alone.
Here are some other helpful tools to empower kids and end bullying behaviors:
Teach children to be assertive.  Kids who seem insecure and lack confidence are often the target of bullying.  Teach children to stand up for themselves verbally, not violently.  Teach children to use a strong voice and tell the aggressor to stop.
Ask for help if needed.  Kids need to be reassured that it is okay to seek help from an adult if they feel frightened of the situation.  It’s okay to take action in a safe way.
Build empathy in your kids.  Teach them to relate to others and raise awareness of being in others people’s shoes.
Help them develop social skills.  Kids who don’t have friends or who always seem to be alone are usually the ones being picked on.  Help them to develop a strong circle of friends they can depend on. 
Be a good example.  Model respectful relationships and treat others fairly.  If you witness someone being bullied or hurt, help out. 
Remain calm.  Though it may be difficult to remain unemotional when insults come our way, teach children to assert themselves as calmly as possible.  Bullies are usually looking to upset their victims, and may stop if they are not getting a reaction. 

If during the next baseball game, the bully in the dugout continues to insult his teammate, I hope the boy being teased can look the bully in the eye, tell him to stop talking to him like that, and go sit with some other teammates.