Welcome to another episode of The Bryn Cooper Show! Today, we are discussing something that is not actually an area I’m a professional expert in, but it is something that orthodontists interact with. And one of the main reasons we want to highlight it that we recently partnered with the American Association of Orthodontics in an anti-bullying campaign. So you’ll see a lot of orthodontists promoting this theme with the hashtag #BullyingBites.
I think this is awesome that we’re actually bringing this to light because we’ll have little kids in treatment as early as six, seven and eight, and one of the main things that people bully them about are their teeth. And when you go through phase one with an orthodontist, when you’re younger, even though you don’t have all of your permanent teeth, it actually can reduce the amount of things that people can pick on. Sometimes if that’s the one thing that’s hurting the kid’s confidence, it can really help them with their mental health, and can really help them pull up their grades because they feel more confident walking into school.
Being aware of these things – how to talk to people, how to how to actually reach out to the bullies themselves, how to reach out to people who are being bullied – is incredibly important because it’s not about having people feel victimized. It’s about helping people grow through it and feel empowered that they don’t have to just be bullied. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
When I was about eight, I had some teeth that were spread out and spaced out. And the cool thing was I had a grandfather who was an orthodontist and so I didn’t even know to tell my parents that, hey, maybe I should get my teeth fixed. I didn’t even know it was an option, but it was something that happened for me because I happened to have a family member that was an orthodontist. And it was one last thing for me to stress about. Even though I had some other things going on that people could pick on, I definitely wasn’t worried about my teeth, which was actually very calming and relieving for me as an eight year old. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to go on orthodontics – I started to think about the experiences that I had over my lifetime and how I could help people with the same skills that my grandfather had. I knew how that could impact somebody and how it could help the kids. It is interesting to me that people really debate doing early treatment for those psychosocial reasons, because I think a lot of kids may not even talk about it or even know to talk about it, and we can really help them out.
How does bullying affect a child’s education? How did it affect yours?
Bullying affected my education in kind of a funny way. It made me plow into the books more because I felt safer with books than I did with people for a long time, which made me actually gain some skills that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. But there are actually people where the bullying creates a situation where they can’t hardly function at school and their grades will drop. They might want to avoid going to school. And so there’s definitely some behaviors that you’ll see with skipping school, grades dropping, psychosocial development, and their ability to have friends.
What is Stand for the Silent?
Stand for the Silent is a nationwide organization that is partnering with schools and communities to empower both the children and schools to have healthy methods of anger management from the people who do bully or to empower those who are being bullied. They can stand up for themselves, they can talk about it and work on different methods to understand that it’s not their fault that they’re being bullied. They have little presentations and things.
Stand for the Silent really does run off of donations. So if this is a topic that hits home for you, go ahead and go to Stand for the Silent and make a donation. The other way is donating your time and getting into a local school. And if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a group of people but you want to get someone in the Houston area to do this, we would love to partner with you. Contacts us here.
How do I recognize when my child is being bullied?
That’s hard. I was actually watching a Netflix documentary on bullying and some parents are really aware that their kids are being bullied because their kids will talk about it, but others have no idea because it is subtle bullying. Sometimes it’s a learned behavior because they have an older sibling or some connection to another group of people who are getting bullied and then they turn around and use it in a situation where they have behavior modeled to them at home. But one good way to know is just asking your kid to start a conversation about it. We only talk about how great our day went, what their successes were. But it’s important to also ask, “what was the failure of the day?” I heard a podcast where every night at dinner, her father would ask each child around the table what their greatest failure from the day was and then they would talk through how they could avoid having that failure again. And that might sound negative, but in a way, it’s actually a positive thing because you’re helping your child gain the tools and the emotional gumption to pick themselves back up and go again. You can also talk to a teacher: you can let them know how much you believe in them and gain trust with them if your children won’t talk to you. But it’s important to be a support system for your child, whether or not they’re getting bullied.
Has bullying gotten worse in an age of social media?
I think it’s definitely gotten worse in the age of social media. It used to be that when you went home, you avoided it. Now with social media, there will be stuff going on in your house and you have no idea. Bullies now have a whole other way to try and reach out to somebody and bully them. I think documentaries are also bringing to light kids who are committing suicide and the violence in bullying. Even if it hasn’t significantly increased the amount of bullying, it has increased the avenues that bullying can occur. It has also increased the awareness because there’s been some pretty dire consequences after social media has been around with teenagers and adults as far as bullying.
Once you notify the teacher, what’s next?
That depends on how the teacher responds. Hopefully you have a teacher that’s empathetic and wants to listen and help, but there are definitely teachers that will say things like, “kids will be kids, this stuff happens, it’ll blow over, I don’t see it happening, I can’t really do anything about it.” Those are red flags. If your teacher says things like that that is a problem. It’s because schools are supposed to be these bully free zones and kids have a right to go to school and learn and feel safe while doing so. Hopefully the teachers will be equipped to help, to calm the bullying down and actually take it seriously and give that child a safe place to go.
Since bullying has gotten worse because of the age of social media, do you think a child should be on social media?
I am on social media right now, but I hope that it’s a force for good and I don’t want social media ever to be used as a bad thing. But there’s a lot of traffic. There’s a lot of stuff going on. The computer and the computer systems behind the social media are trying to get your child addicted to them. So I would recommend a balance, but it is an individual thing. Some people are really addicted to social media: maybe you should watch for that for your child, and maybe limit their screen time if it becomes a problem.
But for some kids, it’s no big deal and try to limit it would actually make it something more exciting for them. So I think you need to take it on a very individual basis. And I definitely can’t say that as a blanket statement, “No children should be on social media.” I can just tell you what I’ve done and and what my opinion is as far as the individual basis.
What steps can we take? What can we do to help with bullying?
The best place to go is a resource like Stand for the Silent and to donate because they run purely on donations. The other thing is you can partner with your local schools. You can help them get some of these programs going. You can do a talk on bullying at Stand for the Silent. The site will actually bring their people in and do it. You can reach out to them and they’ll send you the materials for you to do the presentation. So it’s talking to your teachers, talking to your kids, and donating the time.