As a parent, there are certain threats that make me want to gather up my kids and usher them back into the womb. It used to be unfenced pools, jumbo grapes and steep stairs. But, now they swim, chew and climb so my anxiety has dissipated. Instead we’ve graduated to risks like uneven bars, half pipes and mean girls. Now that we’ve entered elementary school, that last one is a very real and present danger.
The idea of my kids getting caught up in bullying (as victim or offender) makes me want to construct an underground compound on a rural plot of land and hide them away. Because the consequences of bullying be them emotional or physical, are too much. I know, I know. An underground habitat isn’t the answer. But what is?
Diversity. Individuality. Acceptance. Empathy.
These values are the answer. And elevating them for our young people is where we begin. Because how does bullying survive when diversity and individuality are strengths? When acceptance and empathy are expectations? It doesn’t.
Modeling these values starts with a daily rally cry: You be you, Kid. Your essence, your strengths, your differences are precisely what make you who you are. I love you! You are the absolute best version of you in the world. There’s none like you. Your path is your own. Your limits are endless.
We don’t stop there. The rally cry goes beyond our walls into our neighborhood, school, city and world. You be you, World. We model this for our kids by calling out what is special, unique and wonderful in the friends around us. We reframe “struggles” into strengths. We speak with kindness and love. We set tables that make room for every kind, color, talent and type. We invite diversity into our lives and the lives of our kids.
And finally, we ask our kids a simple and persistent question, “What did you learn from someone else today?” In doing so, we frame individuality as an opportunity to learn and grow. We encourage our kids to respond to diversity with curiosity and interest, rather than fear and disapproval. We support them as they set tables that make room for every kind, color, talent and type.
Diversity. Individuality. Acceptance. Empathy. With these as our cornerstones, we create diverse and inclusive places – environments where physical or emotional mistreatment doesn't stand a chance. With "You be you!" as our battle cry, we raise curious and inclusive people – kids whose idea of connection is based on interest and inclusion, instead of mistreatment and shame.
BurnCycle, may we move forward with confidence. We can change this world. We can set inclusive tables, cultivate accepting places and raise an empathetic, kind and loving generation. You be you, BurnCycle!