- Every 7 minutes, a child is bullied
- 77% of America’s children have faced verbal, mental or physical abuse at the hands of a peer (Department of Justice)
- 32% of parents fear for their child’s safety at school (Gallup News Service)
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans (CDC)
Government and school officials convened last week at The White House for the 2011 Bullying Prevention Summit, declaring their dedication to establishing new programs, initiatives and tools for students, parents and educators in the fight against youth-on-youth abuse.
Despite having the President and First Lady tackle this problematic issue “as parents” rather than lawmakers, the glare of a national spotlight, and an intensive societal focus, the fact is bullying is getting worse.
I believe that the current bullying initiatives are actually killing our children. The way this country is approaching the problem is simply incorrect. We need to back it way up – and stop merely spouting the prescribed rhetoric and alter our preliminary intent – which is to raise compassionate, kind, strong children.
To do this, we first need to understand how to properly communicate our intentions and desires to each other, but most importantly to our children.
I am fascinated by the recent inroads scientists have made into deciphering how the brain processes information, and how it impacts our subsequent behavior. They have identified that the brain works in a multi-tiered process that goes like this: Intent, Body Language, Thought, Words.
In reviewing these findings, it occurs to me that the current anti-bullying strategies focus on a reactive structure – teachers and parents tell the bullies to stop, cease and desist, and victims are encouraged to tell the closest adult. When focused on the tail end of this process – thought and words – it is simply too late.
Instead, I propose that we utilize these scientific breakthroughs – and turn the current strategies on end – to create a strong foundation in each child, including the bullies.
We need THE KIND KID REVOLUTION: a 4-part process that will challenge schools, parents and children to reevaluate their behavior, revamp their communication strategies, and require us to find the greatness in every person and every interaction.
And here’s how:
INTENT: Our current goal is to end bullying and keep kids safe – yet an undeniable escalation continues. Instead, our intent should be to promote compassion, kindness and strength in each child. Simple yet successful, positive goals will translate into positive results.
BODY LANGUAGE: There are specific non-verbal communication techniques proven to facilitate positive interaction, reduce stress and encourage cooperation. We can all benefit by utilizing The Belly Button Rule (turn that belly button toward those you want to communicate trust and likeability), Body Leveraging (position your body lower than your conversation partner to enhance the connection), and The Beggars Pose (palms up only, palms down gives the impression you are pushing the other person away, ignoring their appeals, or discounting their feelings), whether confronting a bully or consoling a victim.
THOUGHT: As intent and body language are corrected, thought naturally follows an appropriate course.
WORDS: It is time to change our linguistic approach to handle the problem of bullying in a more effective manner. The human brain is unable to process NO or DON’T – yet we are using these very words as the pillars of our anti-bullying campaign, an ineffective course of action at best; at worst, it enhances and encourages abusive behavior. The Kind Kid Revolution focuses on bringing a new vocabulary set forward, one that will increase rapport among peers, promote quality character traits, and restore our school communities.
- Sending your 5-year-old off to kindergarten only to have him labeled a bully within a week
- Feeling helpless as your 7th grader faces a new assault every day
- Kissing your college-bound teen goodbye; 2 weeks later they are dead at their own hands, tortured by bullies
It is certainly time for America to work together so no child dreads the dawn of another school day, or concludes that taking their own life is the only way to stop the vicious cycle of abuse.