Viciously destroy the idea that bullying is a normal part of growing up.
This is so hard for me as a parent to deal with, from both sides.
Like it brings up all of my issues, and I so want my kid to not have to deal with bullying. And I have no idea how to do that.
I’ll repeat something I’ve said before:
I was doing my Master’s thesis on bullying until the topic triggered me back to my own childhood so badly I dropped out of that degree program. Let me share something I know.
We haven’t quite found anti-bullying programs that stop bullying once it’s started, but we canreduce the harm bullying does. Just a few small changes to classroom culture, like limiting children’s opportunities to exclude each other, or spending time talking about respectful communication, has visible changes. Yeah, there’s still a hierarchy of popularity, but kids at the bottom of the ladder go from having no friends on average to having one or two. And that’s enough to make or break a childhood. (Sources: one two three four five)
But here’s the other thing.
There is one major factor that mediates the link between childhood bullying and adult mental illnesses (predominantly depression, anxiety, and eating disorders). It’s self-blame.
What really damages children isn’t precisely being bullied; it’s believing that they deserve to be bullied. If children don’t blame themselves for being victims, they are much more resilient and experience fewer long-term negative consequences. (Sources: one two three four five)
Society blames children for their victimization by bullies all the time. It says, “There is something about you that causes people to bully you.“ Common responses to bullied kids are things like: “Don’t give them a reaction.” (They’re bullying you because you get upset.) “They’re just jealous.” (They’re bullying you because you do well.) “Let’s teach you some social skills.” (They’re bullying you because you act weird.)
If we can just change that one thing, we could prevent a lot of damage. What bullied kids desperately need at the very least is a caring community that says: You are not alone. It’s not your fault. What they’re doing is not okay.
Also extra horrible: if you get counseling for being bullied a lot of the time it is “identifying what rhing about you is causing people to bully you”. In other words, even the “help” you get us often blaming the victim for being bullied and framing is as your fault, even though ime even if you stop doing the thing you get bullied for the bullies won’t acknowledge it. I got bullied over stuff from third grade until I dropped out of school in 10th.
And that’s not even accounting for the fact sometimes bullying is things that end in ism and there is absolutely nothing you can do as you’re being blamed for your own marginalization.
Bullying is emotional abuse.
There is nothing that can ever make you deserve emotional abuse.
Telling people, directly or through your actions, that they’re at fault for being abused is, again, emotional abuse.