When I discuss bullying with others in my community, the question and comment that I hear many times is, “What can I do?” or “The issue is so big, it will never get resolved.” I know I feel that way sometimes. It does take a lot of resolve to continue on with the cause because the problem does seem overwhelming at times. However, if I can make a difference for just one kid or parent, the fight will have been worth it. The following is one way I intend to bring attention to the topic in my community.
I wanted to share one idea I have that would be simple for anyone to implement. I have done some writing about the movie “Bully.” This was recently renamed and was originally named “They Bully Project.” It is being released in select theaters on March 9th. This is a powerful film and I think it is an excellent springboard for discussion on the topic. It takes a very real and raw look at bullying and what goes on every day in the lives of those the movie follows. I intend to plan a school outing. I will select a time to get as many people from our school to attend as possible. With online ticket buying, it makes it possible for anyone to purchase a ticket who is interested in attending the film. After we have watched The Bully Project, I will have two rooms set aside in a local church to keep cost as low as possible. I believe it is important for both kids and parents to have separate conversations after viewing the film. (As an aside, I have to say that I wouldn’t do this with kids that were younger than middle school age. Parents will have to make their own decision about who will go. Personally, I am taking my 7th grader, but will not take my 4th grader.) I have already arranged to have a friend of mine who is also very active in the anti-bullying movement come in and be a moderator in the room with the kids. I want them to have someone who can build a caring atmosphere quickly, but yet don’t really know so they can talk candidly after the movie. After the separate discussions, parents should be strongly encouraged to have discussions with their own children as they feel is appropriate.
Some Parent Discussion topics
Several topics are highly likely to arise during parent discussion.
- Parents will see how difficult it can be at the school level to deal with bullying. Parents have worked hard to get as many rights as possible with the schools. However, this is also crippling the schools from doing what they know is best. We do have administrators that are afraid of parents. That fear does prevent schools from doing what they need to do to make school a secure place. We must encourage parents to support the school but also hold the school accountable for keeping all children safe.
- Some parents may be dealing with a situation where their child is the bully. We must also be encouraging with those parents as well. Parents and schools must have a no excuse policy. Rather than accepting the excuse, we need to start asking, how are we going to help the child who has been scarred by a bully?
- Just as we want to help the child who is being bullied, the bully must also be helped. Parents need to be encouraged to allow their child to be helped. I truly believe a parent who has a bully for a child is not necessarily a bad parent. The line into bad parenting is crossed when parents refuse to help the child or allow others to help. Then they are doing a huge disservice to their child.
- I think that parents are also going to want help and suggestions on how to talk to their children about this movie. Many kids want to know how it applies to them. I think it is a very different conversation based a child’s personality. Some parents will appeal their child’s compassion and tell them to treat others in a kind and compassionate way. This can also include standing up for someone else. Others might appeal to their child’s sense of self-preservation. Most parents will remember several of the school shootings. The shooters were children who were being bullied. Most of the time, those children go after those who were the bullies first. Parents must get across to their children that actions and words have power and we must make those positive.
- One last thing that would make for an interesting topic would be talking about how much are we in charge of parenting children that are not ours. If we see something going on, do we step in and stop it? How much do we, as parents, perpetuate the bullying by turning a blind eye at times? I can assure you I do not have the answer to these questions, but the discussion would be worth bringing up.
- The biggest thing we can do and get across to all parents is accountability. We need to be accountable for teaching our children how to treat others, the schools need to be accountable for keeping all children safe, our children need to be accountable for their actions, and we all must be accountable for keeping everyone in check. Bullying affects our children either directly or indirectly. Even if children are not directly involved in a bullying incident, they shouldn’t have to watch it going on around them either. In a society that likes to point a finger and not take any blame, we must shoulder blame when it is warranted and not pass the blame on others. How would the outcomes in the movie have been different if there had been more accountability?
At the end of the group discussion, parents need to be encouraged to have a discussion with their children while the movie is still fresh in their minds. It will be important they continue the discussion with their children to help continue to encourage them as they work for change.
Kid Discussion Topics
The kids will have a whole different perspective on the movie than the adults. Approaching this from several different angles is key to a productive discussion. Kids have such a power to make change. It will be important to get them excited about making a positive change in their community.
- First, I would ask the kids if they thought this was a real portrayal bullying. If I had to guess, I would say many would say that they have seen things like what happened in the movie. They might even begin to tell of things that have happened to them specifically if they feel safe with the people in the room. Through the conversation, kids might also start to see where they have been passive about something and not stood up for someone when they could have. I would also ask if there were things in the movie they found surprising or even shocking.
- Each school environment is unique. The kids could list what things in their school environment promote positive actions among kids and what things need some work. Through this discussion, they can also start thinking of adults in their lives who promote a healthy environment and those who don’t. It shouldn’t become a discussion who they like and don’t like, but one of who in their school wants to make sure that harmful interactions are not taking place. As they delve further into the discussion, kids can even identify times in the day when bullying is prone to happen and when it is better contained.
- Once kids have identified some of the problem areas and positive areas, they should make a wish list. In a perfect world, what changes would they make in their lives, communities, and schools. Once the list is made, discuss what would they would realistically be able to do. This is a time to really work on empowering our young people. We need the adults to help with the shift in thought, but kids need to realize they have just as much of an impact if not more. When they stand together and become determined to change the world around them, they will do just that.
For all this is just a discussion suggestion. The first and most important thing is to get the discussion going. All adults must realize that influence they have and the accountability that must take place on their part. Kids need to feel empowered to make changes in the world around them. Both adults and kids need to start to be the change to make our society more connected and encouraging.