- Diversity and
Bully-busting: 4 Tips To Stop Bullying and Bias Before It Happens
- by Deb Capone
Fasten your seat belt and get
on the diversity train!
Experts agree that bullying not
only exists in every school and community in our country, but
it is also escalating at a frightening pace. Bullying, defined
as strong preying on the weak has reached epidemic proportions
in the U.S. as nearly one out of three American children have
experienced bullying, either as the victim, perpetrator, or both
with few victims letting on they are, in fact, victims. A Google
search on "bullying," returns more than three million
sites. Meanwhile, millions of research dollars are being poured
into studying child and adolescent violence and the National
Institute of Mental Health considers bullying one of the anti-social
behaviors to watch for.
According to social scientists
the common causes of bullying are rooted in diversity: racial
differences, differences in family formation/structure, perceived
sexual orientation, learning disabilities, and religious differences.
As the percentage of 'different'
children in schools and in society increases the problem of bullying
grows along with it. We can't escape diversity-even if we wanted
to. It is reflected in the languages we speak, the colors of
our skin, our gender, our age, our traditions, our sexual orientation
and identity, the structure of our families, and the financial
and educational resources available.
The fundamental way to 'bully-bust'
is to teach young kids to respect and celebrate all cultures,
choices and 'abilities'. Decades of social science research has
found that diverse classrooms and communities improve children's
experiences through more realistic representations of the world
around them, increase opportunities for authentic civic engagement
and increase social interaction between members of different
racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. That's a fancy way of
saying that our kids are less likely to be bullied or tolerate
bullying of any sort if they are exposed to diverse people as
early as possible-without any editorial from the adult 'peanut
So how can you become a 'bully-buster'?
Just follow these simple steps and empower one child, one family,
one school, and one community at a time.
1. Bias-recognize, and then
forgive yourself of your biases.
We are all human. We all have
biases-both positive and negative: the super-smart Asian, or
the mysterious villain in a turban. The trick is to be aware,
acknowledge and not unconsciously pass them on. And don't let
the media or other institutions get away with it either. You
can fight back and win!
2. Insist that school and
home environments reflect the world young children live in.
Look at the books, dolls, toys,
magazines and musical instruments, the colors of paint, paper
and markers your children play with. Watch how gender roles are
displayed in your homes and classrooms and ask: Do they really
reflect our diverse world? Pay particular attention to books
as they are proven way to influence a child's worldview, help
form concepts of right and wrong, and raise awareness for social
issues. Cinderella's impact on generations of young women should
be all the proof you need to convince yourself of the power of
the written word. Don't forget what is absent is almost as important
as what is present because the missing link can provide children
with the vital information necessary for beating bullying and
3. Language matter-Watch what
you say and write!
Sticks and stones really do break
bones and names do hurt. We are not even talking about the racial
slurs of the past, but we are talking about other insidious and
hurtful language. Use what sociologists call 'people first positive
language.' For example, a person is blind. He is not a blind
person. A child was adopted, not is (meaning permanently adopted).
People first positive language applies to racial and ethnic stereotypes,
i.e. we sit like pretzels and not Indians. Asians are not Oriental
and not every black person is African-American. If this seems
like political correctness run amok, one glance at the mountains
of sociological and psychological studies demonstrating language's
role in shifting perceptions should be enough to convince the
most ardent nay-sayers. And silence isn't always golden, either.
Silence equals complicit agreement when racism rears its ugly
4. Teach your child how to
Tweak assignments (or help teachers)
to create a win-win for all. A simple and seemingly innocent
'family tree' assignment can send a child in a non-traditional
family into a tailspin. A 'family orchard' assignment may accomplish
the same educational objective yet allow everyone-no matter what
their family looks like feel successful and included. Create
family or classroom 'contracts' of behavior that includes bully-busting
values like Respect, Honesty, Compassion, Fairness Responsibility
and Courage. Get everyone on board the diversity and bully-busting
train and stick to it.
These four simple steps to stop
bias and bullying in its tracks will provide everyone with a
huge payoff: safer, more secure children who can thrive in an
incredibly complex and diverse world. And who knows where that
might lead? Next stop: world peace!