Bullying is an epidemic that seems to be out of control. But as a parent, there are ways for you to stop the madness.
Today’s guest post is by Jennie Withers, author of Hey, Back Off!: Tips for Stopping Teen Harassment. If your kids are not teens yet, keep reading. Because they will be teens before you know it and will no doubt come into contact with bullying along the way.
Renee, a basketball player, arrived at school to snickers and crude comments. The reason? Her teammate took a picture of Renee while she showered then sent it via cell phone. Renee had no idea how many people saw this picture.
Tom was excited to become a member of the varsity football team as a sophomore. His older teammates told Tom he needed to be initiated. For his initiation, Tom was held down while teammates sexually violated him with foreign objects.
Steven’s victimization began in the 6th grade. By the end of his 8th grade year, Steven’s bullies were the cause of two serious stress related illnesses. Steven was asked why he thought he was bullied so severely. He replied, “Athletes are the kings of our school. I’m not athletic.”
For every one of these sports stories, there are ten about athletes demonstrating not only amazing physical feats, but those of leadership and compassion as well. But still, athletics is certainly not immune from the problem of harassment. Therefore, coaches and parents should be prepared to prevent athletes from becoming bullies or the victims of bullies.
Prevent your athlete from becoming the bully
We know the great academic and social lessons sports can teach our kids. Some of our athletes, however, may struggle with the notion that the aggressiveness needed to be successful in sports is not the same as the assertiveness they need in life. We can help them make this distinction.
To prevent your athlete from becoming the bully, you can help athletes:
- Learn the benefits of being assertive (standing up for themselves without hurting others)
- Understand why aggressive behavior is inappropriate outside sports.
- Believe that bullying is a spectator sport. Bystanders are bullies too.
- Ask questions before they act: Will this help me be successful?, Will it hurt others?, How will it make me feel?, Have I thought about the consequences?
- Know what respect is and how you demonstrate it.
- Make positive choices in regard to character, values, how to treat others, handling adversity and attitude.
- Manage anger.
- Experience the consequences of aggressive behavior.
The best way to ensure your athlete doesn’t become a bully is to model assertive behaviors. Our kids notice how we navigate through life. Be an assertive role model.
Prevent your athlete from becoming a victim
Athletes with a tendency for bullying will harass a passive teammate because of age, position or talent level. It is also not unheard of for a passive athlete to have a bully outside of sports. If you believe your athlete is a victim, or in danger of becoming one, help them:
- Learn the benefits of being assertive.
- Become independent.
- Make their own decisions. Ask themselves: How do I feel about this?, What do I want?
- To put themselves first once in a while.
- Come up with assertive strategies for dealing with bullies (i.e. use ‘I’ statements, walk away, get help).
- Complete a safety plan which includes where they can go and who they can talk to in order to be safe.
- Know harassment that is severe (physical or psychological danger), persistent or pervasive needs to be reported to an adult.
If you exhibit passive behavior and/or aggressive behavior, your athlete is more likely to become the victim of harassment. With the support of assertive parents and coaches, sports can teach kids to be physically and emotionally healthy.