Kind Campaign Combats Female Bullying
From USA Today.
The thought of your child becoming the victim of bullying is a nightmare. But for every girl, bullying in some form is a reality, say Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson, founders of the Kind campaign to raise awareness of female bullying. “One hundred percent of girls and women have been the victim of bullying, as the target, the aggressor or both,” says Paul. “It’s a universal issue.”
The women have visited over 300 schools, elementary to college, and spoken at countless community events. They speak from experience.
“My junior year in high school, there was this one girl who didn’t want to be my friend. She turned my whole group against me,” Thompson remembers. “It got to the point that I’d hide in the bathroom between classes. We were also all on the dance team, so on water breaks, I’d sometimes have fake phone conversations so they thought I had friends. I was consumed by insecurity, and I thought I was going to be sad for the rest of my life.”
Paul was pushed even further. “My ordeal started because a boy liked me and this girl liked him. Through seventh and eighth grade, I was tortured every single day by a group of girls. Eventually, I developed an eating disorder and tried to commit suicide in the seventh grade.”
For Thompson, her suffering ended abruptly one day when her torturer apologized. “She called out to me and said, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did it,’ ” says Thompson. “That apology was life-changing. I realized that this experience was not going to be my whole life and that transformative power of the apology is what I love to share.”
By the time Paul was in high school, she developed a strategy to avoid the same trap. “My bullying experience affected the course of my life. I was a floater in high school; I was friends with everybody but didn’t get too close to anyone,” says Paul. She eventually married Breaking Bad heartthrob Aaron Paul, so it all worked out. (Take that ladies!) “I am thankful for going through that experience, walking those hallways in middle school. If not for that, Kind wouldn’t exist,” says Paul. “There’s so much good we can do, so it all happened for a reason.”
Paul and Thompson met during their junior year at Pepperdine University and later filmed a bullying documentary, Finding Kind, which they released in 2010. Last year, in alignment with the Breaking Bad series finale, Paul’s husband urged fans to support the Kind campaign and raised $1.3million. “That’s how we’re able to offer the Kind curriculum free of charge this year,” says Paul. “Aaron is the sweetest and has helped tremendously.” On Sept. 1, they will launch Kind Kits, a package for schools that includes the documentary and a 19-week Kind curriculum. It teaches girls to apologize for hurting others and take a pledge to end female bullying and pay it forward by writing something nice about another person and giving that card to her.
“Bullying has been going on forever and it’s been seen as a rite of passage, but it doesn’t have to be like that,” Paul says. “It’s scary to send your kids to school, but this is really the best time because schools are taking responsibility. There is finally a conversation that bullying is not cool. We are at the forefront of change.”
Steps parents and daughters can take
For the girls:
Remember, it’s only temporary. “When kids are in school, they think that it’s their whole world and this is how it’s going to be for the rest of their lives, but it will end at some point,” says Thompson. “There are so many chapters in life, and this is just one.”
Reach out. “I didn’t reach out to anyone. Kids think that they’re smarter or cooler than their parents, and they’re often embarrassed, but everyone experiences bullying, so most likely parents can relate,” Paul says.
Don’t be a bystander. Sometimes that’s just as bad. “If there’s anything you can do, do it. People have to be held accountable, whether it’s online or physically,” Paul says. “Now on Instagram you can report people for bullying. I do it all the time.”
Unplug from cyberbullying. “Over half of elementary kids have cellphones, so it’s hard to shut down. Focus on something else, even for just a couple of hours a day,” Thompson says.
Forgive. “You have to forgive a bully in order to move forward. A bully is coming from a broken place, and this is a broken person,” Paul says. “Try and have that perspective. If someone is going to sit down at a computer and post something obscene, there’s something going on. That’s not a person stoked on life.”
Enroll your kid in extracurriculars. “It’s crucial. Find out what your kids are interested in. If the only community a kid knows is school, then that’s their whole world,” Paul says. “When I was going through it, I started playing guitar and joined a youth group, so there was a community of people separate from school.”
Keep an open dialogue with your kids. “It’s hard for parents to know when to step in. My parents wanted to go to the school and to those girls’ parents, but I knew it would make things worse,” Thompson says. “Keeping an open and honest dialogue is important, so your child feels comfortable confiding in you and you can decide on what to do together.”
Watch for red flags. “If your child becomes withdrawn, if her grades are dropping, if she doesn’t want to go out or go to school, those are big red flags,” Thompson says.