bullyingI came across a young girl who asked me if I knew how hard high school was today; not in the sense of keeping up with gym class and acing the math test, but adapting to teenage and adolescent growing pains. My response-honestly, I don’t think so. She looked at me, nodded and said; every morning I get up and make sure I have the perfect outfit picked out, my shoes match accordingly and my hair and makeup are untouchable. If I don’t do that, I’ll be the next target.

Wow!! Is this really how youth are thinking today?

I know the issues I may have faced when I was in high school were sought by petty girl fights that eluded to a battle for territorial power that meant nothing the day after, boy drama that emerged from whispers and sightings in the hall, or defining who’s group of friends belonged to which social clique- again, all forgotten as soon as it happened.

Sad to be hit with a dose of reality, but eye opening to face the true monsters our youth are running from-literally. Today, our world is filled with social media, cell phones, video games and overwhelming inappropriate television programs that are bombarding and threatening their potentials to make wise decisions. I know there are numerous articles on why, how and what can we do about this issue- but let’s take a step back and just talk about the role of parents and how the patterns that are defined at home can lead to such behavior, whether it be your child is the bully or is being bullied.

Bullying is all too common among school-age children, especially that age 12-18. According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, more than one out of four children had been a recent victim of bullying, with 6th graders the most vulnerable. Every day, nearly 160,000 children miss school because they are scared of bullying, according to the National Education Association. These numbers are just climbing the peak of outrageous and continue to spike.

School was always the stepping stone where children gained knowledge, sensibility, social skills and ultimately set the foundation for adulthood. As parents, we expect this would be the safest place for our children. Unfortunately, bullying is resulting in serous physical, emotional and academic harm, and now in an overwhelming number of cases- death.

In some cultures, parents are often reluctant to talk to their children about who their friends are, and what they are doing outside of school, what their hobbies are, the new “crush in their lives, or even what type of clothes they are into. Neglecting to spend quality time with your child and really understand who they are as a person, may deter you from recognizing the warning signs that your child is involved in bullying. It’s important to be alert that something is not right to help steer your child in the appropriate direction, or provide guidance. That can only happen by being intimately involved in your child’s life. Take an interest in their social settings, study environments and habits, taste in music and fashion.

Most households have more than one child. If you’re dealing with two siblings or four, the fact remains that one always takes on the more dominant role and how they begin to treat and act towards the other siblings is only the beginnings of shaping their minds. It’s important to start turning that behavior around from a young age and teaching them the importance of kindness, compassion and unity. Kids are so intelligent at such young ages and it’s incredible how easily they will pick up and mimic what their parents do.

Condoning bad behavior can lead to impulsive and wayward conduct that equals trouble. Overlooking good behavior can lead to insecure and ungrateful adolescents who are always seeking approvals or acceptance. Both are important elements of building character for your child. My two year old, as any two year old would, draws all over my cabinets and has spitballs flying out of her mouth. Now, while this is a much more trivial example- I still let her know what she’s doing is wrong. When she listens and actually gets ready for bed at a decent time (doesn’t happen often) – I let her know what a good girl she is. Giving children positive feedback will help build their self-esteem and give them confidence to stand up firmly for what they believe, reinforcing empathy. Letting them know something isn’t right will also give them a sense of reluctance to make an unwise decision and promote responsibility.

Taking bullying serious from a parent perspective can allow us to play a more significant role in preventing it. Parents have the key to shaping a child’s mind, giving them the power of knowledge and more importantly, helping them overcome the challenges of growing up.

According to the National Crime prevention, your child may bully if, he or she; lacks empathy and doesn’t sympathize with others, likes to be in charge, often fights with brothers and sisters, is impulsive. kids who are bullied tend to be different from other kids, whether by size, race, sexually, or have different interests, seem weak, either physically or emotionally and are insecure.

Look out for these signs and be more vigilant to help your child find his or her path in this world.

The Center for Disease Control and prevention has an entire section dedicated to helping youth and parents cope and overcome bullying.