The topic of bullying gets a lot of attention these days, and many individuals and organizations are working hard to end it, which is admirable.

I think the best way to encourage children not to bully other children, however, is to be good role models ourselves. And although most of us think that we are good role models, I ask us to look more deeply at our behaviors and ask if we really are setting a good example for our children.

One form of bullying that doesn’t get a lot of attention is exclusion or shunning. I have both experienced and witnessed exclusive behavior among parents. I have stood in a school lobby with no one to chat with because I didn’t belong to any of the impenetrable cliques.

I have watched a single mother with a new baby be ostracized at a school gathering, while parents flocked to a new baby belonging to two parents.

I have been shunned by friends of one political party for having friends enrolled in another. I have seen religion, sexual orientation, politics, class and family dynamics, all play a part in who will speak with whom, who will sit with whom.

So my thought is this: If we really want our children to stop bullying and being bullied, we need to examine the behaviors we are modeling.

What would happen if we chose our friends based on their qualities, laughs, hobbies and their hearts, rather than their political beliefs, sexual orientation, financial status or religion?

What if, instead of judging and dismissing people based on those initial impressions, we really got to know them? What if we were willing to befriend people who were not like us?

What would our children learn from watching us be less judgmental, more open to others?

Amy Cyr, Farmingdale

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