I have written about this topic on many occasions. It is one that I am passionate about because my own child was a victim of such cruelty. While his situation thankfully seems to have improved, for many children, their situations are still ongoing, and unfortunately only getting worse. This terrifies me as a parent and it should terrify anyone who has children.
We have all of these anti-bullying laws and policies and yet they don’t seem to have the desired effect when it comes to the bullying that is going on that I am privy to hearing about. Bullies of today are quick to hide behind social media, phrases such as “JK” (just kidding – as if saying that to someone after you’ve called them cruel names in any way erases the situation) and the very anti-bullying laws that are supposed to protect our children. Bullies are able to manipulate the system because the system itself is flawed. Having a “good talking to” with someone who is a bully DOES NOTHING. Please don’t try and tell me that it in someway causes pause or plants the seeds of remorse in a bully because I am here to tell you that it most often DOES NOT. Don’t be fooled by the tears a bully gives off because I can guarantee that they are crying not because of their behavior, but rather because they got caught. Please note that I am speaking from the situations I myself are well acquainted with so, I am basing this post on that. Nowadays, all a “good talking to” does is reinforce to the bully that they can be cruel and get a “slap on the wrist.” Gone apparently are the days of detentions and suspensions. This, as my girlfriend refers to it, “Kumba Ya” approach not only does not solve the problem but it actually makes it worse. To the victim it sends the message that the punishment in no way matches the crime and why should one speak up if the ramifications are treated as minor infractions. And guess what, children stop speaking up and SUFFER IN SILENCE. To the bully it sends the message that they can be cruel, deceitful, mean, and downright merciless and all they are going to get is a stern speech.
We have heard enough heart-wrenching stories of children committing suicide because they were bullied. And yet, bullying continues. And it will continue until schools and parents of all children take a stand that is rooted in consequences and accountability. This “everyone gets a trophy, everyone is equal” mentality is bullshit and needs to go. We are so afraid of “offending one another and stepping one someone’s toes” that we have lost our effectiveness to handle situations requiring discipline. What are we teaching our children if we allow behaviors to continue that are morally heinous? It’s time for everyone to wake up to the fact that a bully isn’t just the child who does or says the mean stuff; but a bully is also the child who stands silently by and allows for the bullying to occur. It takes a lot to be the one who steps up, steps forward, and speaks out to the injustices that they are a witness to. Doing this makes that child a target themselves. However, if every child who bared witness to an episode of bullying spoke up, spoke out and stood up for that one child who is being victimized – MAYBE just maybe we could change the culture for good. Maybe we could shift the proverbial power that these bullies seem to have and EMPOWER those who are on the receiving end.
No child should have to bare the pain of being teased, made fun of, mocked, excluded, or even physically assaulted. The simple fact that this is occurring is disgusting and reprehensible. So I beg of you, if you are a school administrator – please rethink how you handle a situation because the majority of approaches out there are having a less than desirable effect and and even less than desirable result. Please pay attention to the young girl who spends her lunch time in the nurses office ever single day because she is being tormented by her peers at lunch – whether through blatant verbal commentary or a general exclusion. Take pause to really examine situations in which children are consistently targets of others and give credibility to the notion that the masses might just be the issue rather than the one loan girl reporting a problem. Take ownership in how you conduct yourself so as to empower students to feel comfortable to speak up and speak out. Be accountable to what you witness and see in the classroom and hallways. You have the power to make a difference and you need to – it’s the right thing to do. It is the only acceptable thing to do.
If you are a parent, be mindful of the child you are raising. If this statement offends you then so be it, but so many times parents are actually in the dark about what their kids are going through, who their friends are, and how they are behaving – whether in person or on social media. Let’s face it, we live in a society where for most families both parents work and between that, running our households, school, and our kids activities we are stretched pretty thin. We are tired and while we are vested in our children’s well-being, we don’t often ask the right questions, the tough questions, of our children. It’s time to start asking those tough questions. Ask your child if they know of anyone being bullied and how they have handled that. Ask them if they have ever been bullied themselves. Ask them if they have ever bullied someone else. Ask them…. Asking them may ultimately change the course of their life or someone else’s – it may even save someone’s life.