We always tell our children to study hard, play nice with others, take care of their bodies and grow. Why? We want our children to be successful, to achieve and excel in life, and to have the confidence to walk away from bullies, find happiness and in the process, maybe even and find ways to end bullying. As caring adults, educators and guides in the lives of children, we hope for them to have everything that we never had. And of course, you never want to see your child suffer from being bullied.
When you read case studies and articles on ways to end bullying and nurture children, the themes are overwhelmingly similar. It is only by helping to create healthy and well-adjusted kids can we achieve happiness in life and help put an end to bullying. Many psychologists and theorists believe happiness to be a choice. They believe it is achieved through goal setting and accomplishment as well as through well adapted relationships with other people around us.
Have you ever wondered why people who are friendly and self-confident always seem to be happy? It is because they are. According to Dr. Tom Muha, a psychologist practicing in Annapolis, there are three core beliefs in sustaining true happiness. If we apply these principals, we can have a real impact and help end bullying in schools. Bullying is often manifested as a result of unhappiness — a way for the child to feel powerful. We can end bullying if adults help demonstrate and reinforce positive behavior in children and help to build their self-confidence.
First, value the time we spend with others. In children, this is acquired through meaningful human interaction, dialogue and experiences along with spending quality time with adults. When we get home from work and feel stressed and overwhelmed it may seem challenging to put those items on the backburner. Research supports that giving that time to our children to engage and talk about what is right and wrong, our experiences as children and what we learned from them, how our day was (if we had problems and how we plan to solve them), why we appreciate them and others are all great ways to enhance your child’s self-confidence.
Another important step toward sustaining happiness and ending bullying is focusing on our strengths and how to grow from them rather than to look at weakness or shortcomings in ourselves. Children are bombarded with icons of who they should be, what they should look like and why they should be interested in x, y or z. When children are able to see their strengths, no matter how unique they are, they can grow in other arenas in life and stand up for themselves. When children are placed in a position to fail, when they are asked to be high performers academically, when perhaps their strengths are their “think outside of the box” ability, or their sensitivity to others, they start to overwhelm themselves with stress. When an individual is stressed the amygdala of the brain is activated, not allowing them to learn or enjoy the situation at hand. But by supporting children for their strengths and by expressing the possibilities of their strengths, they learn more effectively and gain greater self-esteem.
Finally, the third core value for achieving happiness and ending bullying is commitment to being your best self. When a child is aware of sound character and can make decisions based on true happiness over instant gratification, they are consistently working toward this goal. When we help our children see the value of others by modeling respect and provide opportunities for goal setting and achievement, we are setting the stage for happiness and giving them the tools to help end bullying.
It is easy to fall victim to trends and what others have but when we help our children to embrace their own strengths and character, we serve as their guiding light: giving them opportunities to achieve happiness and find ways to end bullying. It becomes easier for them to turn off the TV to talk to us about their day, to reach out and help others, and to grow from their strengths not only as children but also as well-adjusted adults…..adults with sound moral character.
Sara Motlagh has worked with children even as a child herself. For the past 10 years Sara has been teaching in Montessori education which holds virtue at the center of its pedagogy. She is certified through the American Montessori Society and has worked with children in preprimary, primary, and secondary education. Sara currently teaches morals and ethics for children ages 12-15 and is also the Educational Director of the MSNH and Lotus Montessori Schools. As the head teacher of a first through sixth grade classroom, she has successfully developed and implemented a virtue study with her children.
Sara was the vice president of the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools for two consecutive terms. She has also developed and run a series of parent and teacher education programs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with an emphasis in child development and an MBA with concentration in management from Roosevelt University.
Sara has been active in community service both individually as well as with her students for many non-profit organizations and causes. Sara currently resides in Chicago with her husband Jeff and her four legged friend Gia, who also attends the Montessori School of North Hoffman as the class pet.