The tragic death of the 12-year-old boy Sylvester has opened a can of worms about what goes on in our schools. A lot of threads and conversations have begun, telling us clearly that victims of bullying and bullies who are young and shouldn’t have such capacity for such violence exist. In the case of Sylvester, it is quite unimaginable that children who haven’t even turned 18 are capable of torturing someone who looks like them to the point of death.
It begs the question (whether we like it or not) how were these children raised? What do they witness in their private life that normalizes such violence? Family is the bedrock of a child’s foundation and upbringing, it is what forms their growth and determines largely what they become in the future. I do not know the behind the scene lives of the boys who tortured Sylvester to death but I know that a lot of bullies are out there and the best you can do as a parent is to be intentional about raising a child that will never think it’s okay to be a bully.
Here is what you can do;
Teach and practice respect
Be sure to make your child aware that everyone is deserving of respect regardless of who they are, how unique they might be, or how “uncool” they think they are. Take practical steps to show them that they must be courteous to everyone, and meanness is never expected from them.
Let them grow in empathy
The root of people being bullies is that they lack empathy. Make your children aware that their actions affect others and that they should always try to put themselves in the shoes of the other person. Ask them directly how they would feel if someone did something bad to them, encourage them to process and identify their emotions.
Introduce the act to them
You cannot stop bullying if you don’t make them aware of the problems of bullying and what it is. Explain to them what bullying is and show them the many ways it can happen. Watch films that depict bullying, provide them with books that can help them decide for themselves that bullying is not ideal. Have conversations with them about bullying and hear their thoughts and what they consider to be right or wrong.
Watch how they interact with friends and siblings
It is normal for children to make light jokes about one another but at the first sight of bullying tendencies, put an end to it immediately. Do not normalize sibling bullying or let a sibling constantly pick on the other sibling because this can lead to bullying tendencies.
A lot of bullying behavior can be traced back to the home, how much attention do you give your children, how much of themselves do you let them express, and how interested and invested are you in not just the financial or physical growth of your child but also their mental and emotional growth. As we demand for #justiceforSylvester, remember to watch out for signs of bullying and create a safe environment for your child(ren).