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Stander will help stomp out bullying

Kim Metzer is the new executive director of Family Support Center of Barry County.

Kim Metzer is the new executive director of Family Support Center of Barry County. Joan Van HoutenStaff Writer. Bullying in schools is a hot topic for many parents whose children suffer the consequences – often daily. October is National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month, and Kim Metzer, executive director of Family Support Center of Barry County, stresses the importance of understanding that underlying problems may be present and being aware of signs a child may be experiencing bullying or may be doing the bullying.“It’s very difficult for a child being bullied to go to their parents or a school counselor for help. It may be fear of retaliation, shame or embarrassment, but whatever the reason, children find it hard to tell,” said Metzer.According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice statistics, 30 percent of youth admit to bullying, one in three were bullied and 70 percent of youth have witnessed bullying.Bullying is more than making fun or being cruel to another child just one time. The website stopbullying.gov describes bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” Parents and educators wanting more information about what signs to watch for may visit the websites stopbullying.gov and stompoutbullying.com. Further help and assistance about bullying is available by calling the Family Support Center of Barry County, 269-945-5439, or by visiting familysupportbarry.com.Three types of bullying are recognized; verbal, social and physical.Verbal bullying is speaking or writing mean things, such as teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting or threatening harm.Social bullying is involves hurting someone’s reputation and includes purposely leaving the individual out of activities, spreading rumors or publicly embarrassing the person.Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. The act of physical bullying includes hitting, spitting, tripping or pushing, and taking or damaging possessions. “Both the kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems,” Metzer said. “What happens to us in childhood shape who we become. We are also affected by the labels placed on us, so we shouldn't label a child a bully or a victim. What we don't often see is why the behavior is there. It's common to find underlying trauma exists in either or both sides.”She recommends parents think back to their own childhoods. What they remember about their experiences in school may help them relate to what their children are experiencing in the present.Some adults who were not bullies or bullied as children but witnessed bullying.“When bystanders stand up to bullying, it stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time,” Metzer said. “When you’re a bystander, it’s important to know that by doing nothing, you’re sending a message to the person doing the bullying behavior that it’s acceptable. It isn’t.”A bystander can become an “up-stander” by standing up to bullying, she said. Simple acts can make a big impact in stopping harmful situations.Don’t, in any way, encourage the person doing the bullying, such as by laughing and being a bystander; do not participate; don’t become an audience by staying and watching, she said.Stay a safe distance and try to help the person being bullied get away from the situation in a non-confrontational way.Giving support to the person being bullied in private let’s them know someone notices and cares about what they are experiencing.Including and inviting the person being bullied to participate in activities helps to make them feel less alone. It also sends a message to the person bullying that the person being bullied has support.Telling an adult about what happened is a critical step toward ending the bullying, Metzer said. Adults can step in with authority in ways that youths can’t do.Being an up-stander takes courage, leadership and action. It also takes compassion.When considering the roles children take on each day, Halloween is a good opportunity for parents and guardians to guide children by being purposeful in choosing costumes.Some children will morph into fairies, princesses or superheroes, while others are attracted to darker characters, such as evil witches, zombies or super-villains. “Think about what message we are giving during this special occasion when kids spend time acting out and embracing the perceived character they dress up as.” Metzer said.Metzer said there is strength in numbers. Doing nothing is, in fact, doing something when witnessing someone get bullied – it is supporting the bad behavior. Standing together in support of a classmate is important and effective. It’s a visually powerful way to show bullying is unacceptable and won’t be left unchecked.
 
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