“Words have the power to break us, and words have the power to make us”.
“You should be careful about whose words you choose to let in your ears, your mind, and in your heart” - Ron Prassad
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”.
If you believe that that statement holds true, please try telling that to a student who is being verbally bullied at school.
In my anti-bullying speeches to school students, I often say “Words have the power to break us, and words have the power to make us”. Then I suggest “You should be careful about whose words you choose to let in your ears, your mind, and in your heart”.
I used to be someone who thought that the words of a bully would not hurt me, because they are just words. That was a mistake. For someone who experienced bullying at school, I quickly realised that the words of a bully are as lethal as any physical force that the bully might try to use against me.
In 2013, my best friend and I formed Beat Bullying With Confidence Foundation – a charity whose goal is to empower students who are being, or have been bullied at school. One of the first things we did was to conduct an online survey, so that we could learn more about what students think about bullying, how they think they can overcome bullying, and how bullying can be prevented.
After carefully analysing the results of the survey, I decided to use my personal development background to write talks that I could deliver at schools. Let me share some of the suggestions that I make to parents and teachers when I am delivering speeches at schools.
In terms of preventing bullying
Encourage kids to look out for each other – teachers cannot be everywhere at all times. Neither can the parents. If students have friends upon whom they can trust and rely, their friends can be their number one asset when it comes to avoiding being bullied. In my personal experience, my best friend was there for me at high school. Having that one person gave me a huge amount of reassurance and safety. Parents and teachers should tell students to look out for bullies, and support their friends if or when they are approached by a bully.
Education about bullying – I have been to schools where they do not even mention the ‘B’ word. Yes, they are purposefully avoiding the subject of bullying because according to their imagination, bullying does not exist in their schools. So, my suggestion is that teachers should educate students on the subject of bullying, and how to prevent and/or overcome bullying. One of the students we surveyed suggested having information nights at regular intervals at schools where parents and students would attend together to learn more about avoiding bullying and supporting those who are being bullied.
Advise students to avoid areas where bullies tend to hang around. At a school in a country town, where I gave a speech about bullying, a few of the students said that there were shops within walking distance from the school. After school, some of the bullies hang around the shops, and pick on students who are alone. So, ask your students or your kids to be ‘street smart’, and avoid areas where bullies tend to be waiting for them.
Reach out for support There is help out there for students who are being bullied. Encourage them to find and get that help. You will find help online, on the phone with services such as Kids Helpline, help available from teachers, and there is professional help (counsellor or student welfare coordinator). As I frequently say in my speeches “Getting support does not mean that you are weak. Getting support means that you wish to remain strong.” So, encourage them to speak up and get help.
Tell the student or your child that they are not alone Sometimes kids who are being bullied feel alone. Please assure them that they are not alone in this situation. They have the support of their family, friends, and teachers. Knowing that they are not alone can give them more hope.
Empowerment exercises There are two empowerment exercises that I give to bullied students who approach me. Firstly, make a list of your skills, talents, and abilities every day for thirty days. Write it down on paper. This exercise will improve the person’s self image, and acquaint them with their uniqueness. They will realise that they are special, and that their existence is important! Secondly, look in the mirror every morning and say “Thank you, I support you, I love you”. Once again, this exercise will have a positive impact on the person’s self image.
Believe in yourself more than you believe in the bully – As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, “Sticks and stones will break my bones……” does not always apply to a person who is being bullied. However, when a person starts believing in themself more than they believe in the bully, the bully’s words will not be as harmful. Encourage them to believe in their positivity more than they believe in the bully’s negativity. Give them that choice.
Emotional resilience Encourage them to build emotional resilience. They can start studying personal development. There is an abundance of information online, in libraries and bookshops about personal development. On YouTube you will find videos from Tony Robbins, Nick Vujicic and Sam Cawthorn to name a few. Encourage them to learn about how to overcome adversity, and shine.
As parents and teachers it is our role and responsibility to ensure the next generation are provided with a safe and nuturing environment, one in which they are thriving, not just surviving. Together, we can beat bullying with confidence.
Ron Prasad is an author, speaker, life coach, and an anti-bullying campaigner. He is passionate about empowering kids who have been bullied at school. Sharing his experience with bullying, and his insights from his personal development career, he encourages young people to overcome bullying by using empowerment exercises. Ron can be contacted: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A free app is available from Beat Bullying With Confidence for Apple and Android devices.
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