9 of 1000 – Bullying

Lisa, “(With my daughter) I told her, “Turn the other cheek.”

Looking back, I was wrong.  I should have told her told her told stick up for herself. The next day she came home and said she got teased worse. The look in her face was like a knife through my heart. Such disappointment.

I learned not to do that with my son. I tell him, “Stand up for yourself.” He knows if he does stand up he will never get in trouble.” Tip #5

Bullying is avoided by few, if any.  It was painfully present in my school years, and even more painfully present when it impacted my son.  I can only empathize with Lisa, when it comes to bringing a daughter through the ordeal.  Girls can be relentless!

During my childhood, and Michael’s, thankfully there was no internet.  Although I dreaded school and often lived in fear, I don’t believe there was the same level of intensity as today’s youth experience.  At least when I made it home, it was over for the day!

I cannot imagine trying to cope with the added pressures of internet and social media.  It never leaves.

When raising Michael, I too followed Lisa’s first line of defense.  I suggested walking away, turning the other cheek, and the likely failure of telling an adult.  How I wish I could say these were effective solutions.  I wish after three decades, and much examination, I had some proven wisdom to pass along.  In our case, these options did not remedy two generations of bullying.

I thought, teaching respect, communication skills, conflict resolution, and instilling a positive self-image, would certainly enable my son to avoid the pitfalls of bullying.  Unfortunately, those skills were no match for such schoolyard complexities.

I’m afraid I must report, I did not find effective tools as a child, an adolescent, a parent, or as a professional.  I have not yet identified any failsafe way to manage bullying.  It is a powerful and heart-breaking social construct!

At the risk of being unpopular, but with a commitment to honesty, what did work in my son’s history was physical altercation.  It inevitably came to blows! I hate to type it, I hate to believe it, and of course I did not and do not promote it.

Sadly, in the situations he faced, it is what worked.  After trying to mediate, communicate, and consult with parents and teachers things remained unchanged, and at times escalated.  Until my son hit the aggressor, the matter was not resolved.

Harshly, as adults we know, physical conflict can further aggravate the issue, even result in irreparable damage.  The outcomes of violence are random, far-reaching, and often unpredictable.  Of course, physical contact is not advisable, and is dangerous!  The feared outcomes surrounding violence are ever present, and very real.  The results could be tragic, even fatal.  I hope we find a universal solution!

In my childhood experience, my Mom calling their Mom, did work twice.  Admittedly, at times it made things worse!  As a result of my experience and learning, my final analysis and deep rooted plea is, much more work is needed!

Our kids, and their safety, depend on further advancements in this area. I urge training, targeted prevention, application of research and proven programs, combined with immediate intervention with children, parents, and professionals.  All hopes are to keep kids safe, and schools free of violence!

Having relocated many times during Michael’s early school years, he was too often the new kid.  To further compound things, he was also a cute kid, a smart kid, and a good boy.  Under these circumstances, bullying seemed unavoidable.  What wasn’t unavoidable, were untrained, ineffective, and uncooperative adults.

In one instance, I contacted the school to discuss the ongoing bullying.  I was advised it was no longer an issue as the offender was not attending their school. He had moved “out of area.”  I was saddened, and angered, by this response.

My reply, “It is still an issue!  Now it is an issue for another school and another kid.  I hope something is being done to forward the information to this child’s new school so the matter can be immediately addressed.”

I honestly cannot recall the school’s response to my reply.  I was so blinded by the theory, the issue was “no longer a problem.” I couldn’t see past the response.  What an unfortunate perspective! This child was now given a fresh slate, with an entire new group of unsuspecting kids to victimize.

I was not seeking punishment for the child, I was seeking support.  I feel strongly the offending child may even have the greater need for attention.  I propose more should be done for the aggressor in these situations. I encourage the perpetrator be given the utmost consideration.  Both sides are in need of effective and immediate interventions.

In my work with at risk youth, I regularly see the ‘writing was on the wall’ in early elementary.  By the time youth are in conflict with the law, many have dropped out of school, and have learned adults are of little help.  At that stage, interventions are less likely to be productive.

It is my hope intervention start in the early years.  When a girl gets her hair pulled, a kid gets pushed on the school grounds, steals a hat, or another’s homework – all red flags raise.  We should collectively be working to identify and address these matters, effectively, efficiently, and with the involvement of families!

I am reminded of the quote, “Those who are hardest to love, are the ones who need it most.” I realize families can be complicated to engage; however, I caution, if something is not done to engage families at the onset, the cost and consequences heavily increases.  Adults should never pretend to not notice!  We must not say, “Kids will be kids.” “Boys will be boys.” Bullying does not just go away!

Thanks Lisa, for your tips and your love!

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