By Kevin Sorbo and Amy Newmark
Studies show that as many as three-quarters of all students admit to having been the victim of some form of bullying, but parents, grandparents and teachers often struggle to find a way to connect with children to discuss this and other issues that today's kids face.
Because peers play such an important role in young people's lives, one of the best ways to connect is by reading stories about other children.
Our new book, "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids", tells 101 stories about kids dealing with topics such as bullying, disabilities, helping others, relationships, divorce, and moving.
With National Bullying Prevention Month drawing to a close, here are five stories you can share with your kids to teach them lessons about bullying:
- A bully may be bullied himself. Kids said mean, terrible things to Dani Johnson, so much that she actually started to believe them. "I took in everything they said about me - I believed I was ugly, stupid and weak," she writes. And then Dani started bullying her two younger sisters, just as the other kids had bullied her. Now a bestselling author and TV/radio host, Dani writes, "I didn't know what to do with the pain, rejection, anger and confusion I felt, so I did what most people do - I hurt others." Dani advises, "Don't take your pain out on your brothers and sisters, or other kids. Speak to others the way you wish they would speak to you. What you say to others will be said to you."
- Don't be afraid to try something new. Just to impress a girl, actor Gary Graham joined the junior high orchestra. He ended up with the cello, a totally unfamiliar instrument that he did not play well. But, to his own surprise, Gary wanted to win the cello solo at the Christmas Concert. An impossible task, he thought. Yet through intense practice, he did it! "If you've got a dream - go for it," Gary writes. "It's in your heart for a reason. You can achieve what you set out to accomplish."
- Mean girls really aren't popular. Sam "Sandy" Sorbo wanted to fit in with the cool girls in junior high so badly! She tried to dress like them and style her hair the same way. Sandy also joined the Girl Scouts, and got to hang out with one of the most popular girls in school. She was so excited to be a part of a group! But when she stood silently as the rest of the troop cruelly outcast one girl, Sandy felt horrible. She didn't want to be like those girls! "The friendships I had coveted were built on treacherous sand," she writes. "I realized I just didn't need to ‘fit in' with the likes of those girls - nor did I want to."
- Be proud of what makes you different. Jody Fuller is a stutterer. As a kid, he hated that - it made him stand out in school when he wanted to blend in. He stayed silent a lot in class, fearful classmates would tease him about his stuttering. Then in eighth grade he realized being different from everyone else was a good thing! "I finally embraced that difference and ran with it," Jody writes. "I always volunteered to read and even used oral presentations as an opportunity to showcase my comedic talents... I was in control and would not allow the anxiety or insecurity to control my feelings, attitude, or behavior." Jody went on to become a speaker, comedian, writer, and soldier. "It's never easy being a kid. It's especially tough when you're different, but it doesn't have to be," he writes. "The time to embrace your uniqueness is now."
- Your role models could be in your own family. At the all-grades choir practices, Jill Burns saw her older sister glare at some kids who were making fun of another girl, Theresa. Jill didn't understand why they were teasing Theresa but she didn't do anything about it. Then those same bullies teased Jill because her sister and Theresa were friends. Jill screamed at her sister, demanding to know why she stood up for Theresa. "Because she's a wonderful person and she's dying," was the answer. "I will remember those words for as long as I live," she writes. "My sister was the only one nice enough to be her friend and stick up for her." At the end of their choir performance, Jill saw her sister hug Theresa and get some weird looks from the bullies. But Jill wasn't embarrassed by her sister this time; she felt proud instead. "On that night, so very long ago, my sister became my hero. Throughout the years I watched her, always making friends with everyone," Jill writes. "All I know is because of that night, something inside me changed and I never looked at anyone in the same way again.
Co-author Amy Newmark (at left) enjoyed a successful career as a hedge fund manager, financial analyst and in telecommunications before leaving in 2008 to become Publisher and Editor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.
Besides a successful twenty-year career as an actor in film and on television (most notably as the title character in the Hercules TV movies and series), co-author Kevin Sorbo (at right) serves as the spokesperson for the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit working to ensure that all children have access to quality after school programs, and, since 1997, for A World Fit for Kids!, a Los Angeles-based mentoring program which trains teens to become heroes to other kids in their own neighborhoods. All of Sorbo's royalties from "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids," along with a share of Chicken Soup for the Soul's proceeds, will benefit this powerful program of "kids teaching kids."