A new backpack. New supplies. New clothes. New goals and challenges. New and old teachers. New and old friends. New and old bullies.
Some things never change. I’d like to think we could end bullying with enough effort, but I don’t believe that will ever happen. And I’m not sure it would be the perfect solution.
Bullies are people who hurt inside and need attention. They want to feel in control and powerful, so they make someone else feel small and weak, hoping to hold on to feeling bigger and better.
When adults see a bully strike out, it’s like a red flag signaling a cry for attention. Bullies need someone to help them stop their cycle of pain. Even with good help, breaking that cycle is not an easy job and there are usually victims left in the wake hurting and feeling small.
But there is a second side to bullying, which perhaps can prevent the victims from drowning in the wake. A side that we can turn from a negative to a positive. We can give children another option: a new perspective by empowering them with resilience and self-esteem.
During their school years, children don’t always see their own strengths as easily as people looking from the outside. Parents, grandparents, and teachers often can see a child’s strengths from a very young age. But when we are children, so many things fog our vision of ourselves. We want to be like our idols, our best friends, characters in a book, stars on social media… No matter how long we stand in front of the mirror, we don’t see our potential.
The funny thing is, for some reason, bullies have the superpower to identify someone’s potential. They see their differences and zero in on them like an arrow to a bullseye.
What if we taught kids to identify their differences and explore the possibility that these differences are connected to their strengths—to their superpowers. What if we taught our kids that when a bully points out one of your differences, they are doing you a favor. They are helping you to see what makes you unique.
That’s exactly what I taught years ago at Kid Central, my nature-based childcare center in Colorado. I told the kids they could call me different, weird, odd, unusual, or even words I won’t write here, but they were not allowed to call me normal.
I told them I had never been normal, nor did I want to be. I’m different, weird, odd, and that makes me special. And you are all different, weird, and odd because you come to my school, which makes us all special!
I taught them when a bully picks on one of your traits, look them in the eye, smile, say thank you, and go on your way being wonderfully, perfectly yourself. After all, you don’t want to be normal like they claim to be. Booooooring.
Years later, after I had sold Kid Central and moved away, I returned for high school graduations a few times. Some of my grown-up kiddos would tell me that what I taught them about being wonderfully, perfectly unusual empowered them through the tough years of middle school. It was then that I knew I would write a book someday and share this tactic with many more children.
That day came during Covid when I had plenty of time to write. Now, it is the award-winning book, “Wonderfully, Perfectly Unusual! A Story about Bullying,” popular with children ages four through eight as a bedtime story or school lesson.
Together we can empower our children by helping them see their strengths,
love their differences, and always be wonderfully, perfectly themselves.
Never stop believing!