By Lauren Strait

Is your child part of the 28 percent? The 28 percent that is bullied each year by a peer? Or are they part of the 30 percent of those who bully others? How about the 70 percent of children who witness some kind of bullying every year? These are the statistics about bullying according to www.StopBullying.gov.

No matter where your child falls, bullying prevention starts with parents.

Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior that is repeated over time and involves a transfer of power, according to Carrie Severson, CEO and president of Severson Sisters, a non-profit organization that empowers girls and women internationally.

“Teaching children the power of self-esteem is the first step in preventing bullying,” says Severson. “This is something we encourage parents to do. Be sure to keep your child active. Afterschool activities are key for self-esteem. The more well-rounded children are, the less bullying is prevalent.”

Kids bully for a variety of reasons and often times these reasons can be linked back to what’s going on at home, explains Severson. “Stress at home can show up in the classroom. Without a proper outlet, kids can take it out on another kid at school they believe to be ‘lesser than’ them.”

You would think a 13-year-old girl who holds the title Miss Junior Teen Scottsdale United States would be far off the bully target list. For Gabby Arcilla, bullying became the center of her universe. She shares how she dealt with her bullies and how she turned her experience into an empowering platform for her peers.

 

“Gabby started doing beauty pageants to help with her dyslexia,” says Gabby’s mom, Danelle Arcilla. “The public speaking portion truly helped her with it and boosted her self-confidence.”
Gabby quickly started getting noticed by her peers with the activities she was involved in. This is when the atmosphere changed for her at school. She began seeing negative posts on social media, and some of her friends starting saying Gabby was better than everyone else. It escalated when a mom of one of the bullies got involved and began calling Gabby names along with the other girls.

“I felt like I had no one,” says Gabby. “I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I wouldn’t talk to my family about it and didn’t think anyone would be able to help me with how to control it.”

Danelle noticed a change in Gabby’s behavior and began to ask questions. That is when she found out what was going on.

“I was heartbroken,” says Danelle. “She is beautiful, not only on the outside. She has a good heart.”

Gabby’s mom kept her focused and busy with her activities. She listened and encouraged her not to let people get her down. She even suggested branching out and trying a new lunch table to sit at in order to meet new friends.

“It was neat to hear Gabby come home and tell me that she did what I said and sat with new people at lunch. She told me she met a new friend and was really excited about learning more about her.”

After awhile, Gabby found new friends and stayed busy. She started thinking about her peers. “I knew I couldn’t be the only person that felt this way, so I started thinking about what I could do about it,” says Gabby.

That is when she got involved with the Severson Sisters. Gabby entered a pageant and successfully raised money for girls to go to a camp for a week to teach them how to develop stronger relationships among peers and finding bullying solutions that best fit their life while building self-esteem. She currently serves as a liaison at her school as a peer counselor and got her principal to agree to a counseling program where peers can get together and talk.

“Gabby knows it’s not about a pretty face, but being a pretty person inside and out. As long as she continues to do that I will back her in anyway I can,” says Danelle.


 

Initiatives to end bullying
Adults and kids just like Gabby have implemented initiatives to make a difference all over the United States. 
Severson Sisters is a great way for young girls to become involved in a program to gain self-esteem. They offer events, workshops and camps for girls to feel a sense of empowerment for themselves and each other. More information about the Severson Sisters can be found at www.seversonsisters.org.

Girls on the Run is a transformational physical activity-based positive youth development program for girls in third-eighth grades. They teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. You can find more information at www.girlsontherun.org. The Arizona Bullying Prevention Project offers a five-step bully-proofing program emphasizing a conflict avoidance approach. This program trains companies, teachers and parents how to prevent, avoid and reduce bullying incidents using verbal judo, conflict management strategies, psychology and bodyguard tactics. More information can be found at http://bullyproofingarizona.blogspot.com.

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