Programs like Guyer High School’s recent anti-bullying week are designed to encourage young people to present a united front against those who attempt to harass fellow students, either in person or online.
Similar programs have been held at other area schools and at schools across the country. Educators and parents are concerned and rightfully so — media reports have detailed several tragedies that occurred when young people were pushed too far.
According to Guyer school officials, research shows half of children are bullied at some point during their school years.
One thing in particular about the Guyer program that we liked is that school officials told us they didn’t intend to pressure students to support the initiative — they wanted students to make their own decisions about it.
Kathleen Ashton, a Guyer High counselor, said the week was an attempt to offer students practical skills on what to do if they see bullying so that they can not only stand up for their friends but all people being bullied.
We think such practical tips should be a key part of any anti-bullying campaign — but common-sense tactics that students can use in real-life situations are often overlooked in the rush to sign pledges, hang banners and hold pep rallies.
Teaching our kids to stand up to bullies — either for themselves, a friend or someone they may not even know — is a life lesson that requires a team approach. Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults must work together to instill good values, and they must make sure that their own behavior always sets the right kind of example.
We can’t rely on school initiatives or other community programs alone to do the job — bullies can be, and usually are, found everywhere. The problem doesn’t end at the school yard boundary, and it doesn’t stop when kids leave any particular grade level.
Taking a practical approach to the problem — educating and guiding our kids to make the right decisions on their own — will help keep anti-bullying campaigns effective and not allow them to become catch-all solutions designed to salve the concerns of overprotective but under-involved parents.
Life brings inherent exposure to bullies, and parents must teach their children how to cope with adversity, from school days through adulthood. It may be tempting to try, but we can’t wrap them in a protective coating to insulate them from trouble — we must equip them with the skills they need to make their own way in the world.
Heightening awareness of the dangers of bullying and providing practical skills for dealing with the problem are certainly part of that process, but parental involvement and good communication between parent and child are even more important.
Education programs and societal buzz-words come and go, but effective parenting is a lifelong commitment.