10 Things You Can Do to Help Confront Bullying

On this day after Spirit Day, I’m committed to keeping awareness of bullying at the forefront of my mind. I just shared these ten suggestions with my parishioners. What would you add?

  1. Let the youth in your life know how you feel about bullying. Just like you talk to them about other life choices, talk to them about how you expect them to treat their peers. Encourage them to covenant with others to make their school, team, etc. a bullying-free zone.
  2. Whenever possible, talk about the deeper reasons we do not bully. Make connections for the youth in your life between respect for all of God’s creation and respect for all people. Talk about why your faith teaches you not to bully.
  3. If you were bullied, tell your story. Sometimes youth who are being bullied feel ashamed of the fact. Or, they may not realize that people they love have gone through the same thing, and have come out the other side.
  4. If a young person who is being bullied comes to you for support, encourage open dialogues with them. Do not shame them for being bullied or tell them they need to “get a thicker skin”. Stress that this is not their fault.
  5. Don’t dismiss bullying as “kids will be kids” or say “this has always happened, and it always will…they’ll be fine”. Besides the fact that these statements do nothing to comfort a bullied kid, things are tougher than ever now. Because of Facebook, Twitter, texting, and other forms of communication, today’s bullied youth can now be targeted 24 hours a day, even in their own homes after school. Take bullying seriously, and be aware of how social media might be abused for this purpose.
  6. If a young person in your life is the bully get them the help they need. Bullies are not born. If they are targeting other young people it is often because they are learning the behavior from someone else.
  7. Model non-bullying behavior in your work, church, and home life. Bullying, unfortunately, does not end with high school. Adults are often just as guilty. Show the young people in your life what it means to treat everyone with respect and civility. Confront bullies with love, but firmness.
  8. Help shape anti-bullying programs in your local community. Take a public stand against bullying. Encourage parents and other adults to talk about the issues. Participate in honest dialogue.
  9. Grow your youths’ confidence in their ability to stand up to bullies. Teach them to be strong without being a bully. Praise them when they stand up for more vulnerable classmates. Differentiate “turning the other cheek” from allowing one’s self to be continually abused.
  10. Give them hope. It does get better, and you should make sure they know that, but don’t leave it at that. Give them a reason to find hope now. Remind them of their value. Tell them they are loved. Talk to them about their future. And, if you are worried, talk to them about whether they are considering hurting themselves. It is worth it to have the conversation.