Friday, 27 May 2016

Schoolyard Bullying



Bullying.  A word that has only gained in intensity and power despite its frequent use.  Everyone is outraged by bullying. It is the hot topic at parent meetings and "zero tolerance for bullying" has become every school's catch phrase.

And rightly so.  Consistent bullying is intolerable and can lead to horrific situations and leave lifelong wounds, especially on the heart of a small child, unequipped to make sense of a situation that would baffle most adults.  We have all read the stories, horror stories really,  of children and teenagers who take their own lives as a result of prolonged, systematic bullying.

We read these stories and try to convince ourselves that these things couldn't touch us on such a devastating level.  

We tell ourselves that a child who is bullied so badly that they take their own life must not receive the necessary love or attention at home to overcome the bullying by their peers.  A child who would take their own life must not have really been taught how great their worth was, how precious and irreplaceable they were.  However, if we are honest, we know that this is not always the case.  It's far more complex than that.  A child who is terrorized daily on the playground may have vulnerabilities in other areas already and may not have the capacity to cope with or process the trauma they are enduring.

Sometimes the most loving home in the world can't save a child who has been made to feel so utterly worthless.  

It is frightening to acknowledge that sometimes the most secure home isn't enough.

Bullying is intolerable.  

Schools should have a zero tolerance policy.  These words instill confidence, the idea that something is being done right, but is there substance behind these words?  

Sometimes a concern about bullying is met with something frighteningly similar to victim blaming.  "I am sorry but your child isn't like other children.  I'm sorry but your child doesn't read social situations very well.  I am sorry but..."

In essence, I'm sorry but somehow your child has brought this upon himself.

The bottom line is that these "I'm sorry but" comments are essentially contradictory to the idea of having a zero tolerance for bullying policy in the first place.  These comments in fact, contribute to bullying rather than lead to finding a solution.  The message given is that children could avoid being bullied if they would just conform to a standard notion of normal.  If they could manage to become just like everyone so as not to stand out in any way.

Is this what we want for our children?  It isn't what I want for mine.  The answer to bullying is not conformity or eliminating differences or the very things that make someone an individual.  As my children grow, I don't want to teach them to blend in and not stand out.  I want to teach them to stand up and be who they are and were created to be, even if who they are is a little bit quirky, a little bit different.  

We can try to teach ourselves and our children courage, empathy and hard things like how to stand up for someone who is being hurt or made fun of.  We can try to help them understand that a person is allowed to be different.  

It's important to keep teaching children that there are obvious differences we see at once.  For example, we may remember to teach our children that we don't bully a child who has a different skin color or who speaks with an accent.  We may remember to teach them not to make fun of someone who has uses a wheelchair or a child who has a visible disability.

It's also important to teach our children and perhaps ourselves, that there are less obvious differences as well.  Disabilities or syndromes we don't see or understand fully because a child seems "normal" on the surface.  The little boy who is bright and engaging but obsesses over one thing and repeats himself constantly.  The child who is sitting quietly in class and suddenly has a series of noticeable vocal or motor tics.  A child with sensory issues who has trouble processing the light, feel, noise, and speed of the world around them and experiences meltdowns or shutdowns.  All of these things may seem funny to classmates until someone sits down and explains to them what is actually happening to the child experiencing these things.  

That that child may just think a little differently and understand and experience the world a little differently.  Most importantly, that there is room in the world for everyone and it's ok to be a little different.  It's a pretty good lesson to take with us as we go through life.

14 comments:

  1. Such a powerful post! I was bullied at a young age due to being deaf and I am terrified of this happening to my daughter. I refuse to tolerate bullying either from other kids or from my daughter along with victim blaming. I despise the word, 'BUT' because that just takes away the apology.

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    1. I am so sorry you experienced that growing up.:( Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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  2. This is a fantastic post! It is horrible when I turn on the news or read the internet to hear or read that another child, some even as young as 8 years old have taken their own life due to the amount of suffering they feel inside from being bullied everyday. With the internet and the opportunity for people to hide behind their computers, bullying has taken on a whole new face and it needs to stop. I have been bullied and still carry the scars with me today. It can drop your self-esteem to its very lowest point and change who you are completely. I stand against bullying and have always stood up for the underdog at school and even at work. Even we as adults bully each other and we need to stop. As you said, there is room in this world for all of us. I love this post!

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    1. Yes, there is something so disturbing and terrible about the mob mentality that often goes along with bullying. Children (adults too as you say) egg each other on and it's like they try to strip the bullied person of their dignity and identity. I really admire that you make it a point to stand up for others. Thank you!!

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  3. I am so glad that bullying is in the forefront of the news these days. People need to be made aware of how terrible it is in the schools.

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    1. I agree, maybe I was just super lucky but I honestly don't remember seeing bullying at all when I was growing up. But now, it is everywhere and we have become painfully aware of it this year as our little son started first grade and hasn't had the experience we hoped for him. :( Thank you for your comment!

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  4. Such a well written post and I complete agree: there should be a zero tolerance policy. Bulling is awful whether it be in the school, workplace...anywhere. Really glad that I found your blog - I love your writing style.

    Sarah, Things Sarah Loves.

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate that!

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  5. I agree with you, schools should not tolerate any type of bullying.

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  6. I got bullied a lot in highschool. Nothing that I like to remember!

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    1. I'm so sorry. That must have been really hard.

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  7. Yes. You make so many great points. I do not want my children to have to blend it either. I definitely agree with a zero tolerance policy.

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  8. Hey Colleen,

    You know what annoys me about bullying the most. At school the teachers know who the instigators are. While kids of any age think they are keeping it on the down low, they are more than obvious. And school gossip can be heard everywhere.

    Kids will always be nasty to one another. However to feel like you're not safe is a different thing all together. Feeling sad by the kids doing what they do is one matter. A child not feeling safe is another.

    It sounds as though zero tolerance is the new buzz words. And the thing is, those bullies, if they are not made accountable early on, if they don't take responsibility for their actions early on, they go out in the world thinking its okay later on in life. A horrible cycle.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Rachel.

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  9. was lil busy,so am commenting late..major reason for bullying is parenting. most of parents are ill-mannered or insensitive or corrupt.so their kids will never know what it means to be human..if parents maintain high moral standards at home,,kids will behave more human or will be sensitive to others suffering.

    when i was school kid,i went through a lot of bullying and a gang used to harass me all the time.if you complain to teachers,they will smile at you and say"WHY ARE YOU COMPLAINING LIKE A GIRL". so everyone around thinks 'BOY' means insensitive and should be rough n tough.so you are forced to hide your suffering and emotions. i never took these issues to my parents cuz in my culture parenting is a natural process where our true culture/civilization we have inherited will guide you.so my parents always taught our culture/civilization in the form of bedtime stories and household behavior where we have to decide what's right and wrong.so i never took my school bullying issue to my parents. after bearing it for 3 years,one fine day i have decided to end all this in few minutes. one of bullying gang guy was punched so hard by me,he fell unconscious. it has become big news in my school. my class teacher asked me whether am a superman or hero or am trying to prove myself. I JUST TOLD HIM THAT HE DIDN'T DO ANYTHING THOUGH I COMPLAINED MANY A TIME. i made my class teacher to shut his mouth and he failed to take any action against me.then he took me to my school principal,i told him the same that i was bearing it from past 3 years,my principal could not win an argument with 7nth grade ME cuz he failed as a school head in taking care of students. where did i learn all this? my parents never told me to become violent or to beat someone.its a natural process where you decide what's morally right or dhamma or dharma.

    from that day,everyone was scared to bully me,the guy who fell unconscious was totally changed,he became calm and studious. there was total change in everything and it did change bad guys into better guys.sometimes incidents are serious and scary,but they bring greater change.

    all above lines could have been avoided if parents of kids behaved like really educated or know the real meaning of parenting.people just conceive kids and throw them out like in wild,without teaching what's good and bad.we don't need such parents on earth but most of parents are like that cuz they just give a reason that their life is busy and they want to make money above parenting.

    in india, going out really tests your patience cuz people dunno how to behave or people are born to corrupt parents.

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