Back to School: Teaching Kids How to Deal with Conflict
By: Sal Monteiro, Director of Nonviolence Training
Bullying happens everywhere, it doesn’t just happen on the playground. It is important as parents and educators to remember that bullying is not just an act committed by kids and young adults, we can be guilty of it too! Nonviolence can help address issues of bullying by following some simple steps. First, gather information. If a child is being bullied, ask them why they think the person is being a bully to them. Information gathering helps everyone involved understand the issue, and lets everyone work together to create a compassionate, respectful resolution.
Secondly, parents and kids have to be courageous enough to talk honestly about bullying. As a parent, talk to your kids about bullying and let them know they have to have the courage to speak up and say something. Telling a teacher that something is happening is not being a tattletale! If my daughter came to me and said, “Dad, I’m being bullied” I would first ask her what happened, why she thought this person was doing it, and ask if her she talked to her teachers. Gathering information and sharing it with who needs to know is an extremely important step towards reconciliation. It takes more courage to speak up than it does to stay silent.
It is equally as important when teaching our children to have the courage to speak up to also teach them not to cast blame on the individual doing the bullying. The nonviolent person does not back down in the face of being bullied, they approach the situation with compassion and caring. They must realize that it is not the person, but there is a root cause of why they are bullying. In nonviolence, this is Principle 3, “Attack the forces of evil, not persons doing evil.” This is a very tough principle for even adults to understand. But, in order to create an open dialogue and approach conflict with compassion, it would be unjust to blame the person. Instead, teachers, parents, and students should share an open dialogue to make sure issues are addressed so that everyone feels respected (in nonviolence, these are steps 4 and 5).
Ultimately to stop bullying, we must work to prevent it in the first place. It takes commitment, awareness and the courage to address that this happens in every school regardless of whether it’s the most prestigious school in the state, or your local public school. Parents and teachers must work together to create a safe space where kids can discuss issues and create compassionate solutions. Talk to your kids about bullying, teach them to be courageous and compassionate, and that reconciliation is possible if issues are dealt with respect and dignity for all. To quote Ken Butigan author of “From Violence to Wholness,” “Nonviolence is not a solitary activity.” It takes direct action from parents, teachers, and kids to end the cycle of bullying in our schools.