There’s been a ton of talk recently about bullying and kids committing suicide because of it. Of course, bullying is wrong and suicide is heartbreaking. However, let me clue you in on something…
- Kids are mean and vindictive and will hurt your feelings.
- Adults will do the same.
- Wearing a purple shirt will not make a difference.
- The “It Will Get Better” campaign won’t stop any bullies. Although, it may help a few kids who are contemplating suicide.
Bullying is not a “gay issue” and it doesn’t go away with graduation. The only thing that changes is the reaction to bullying or intimidation. The answer to bullying is to walk away or confront and never show fear.
My daughter was bullied in middle school. She came from a parochial school and had to deal with the culture shock of public school. She was, for all intents and purposes, sheltered from the real world and faced it head long in sixth grade. She was far too sensitive and a bundle of hormones and emotions – easy pickings.
My parental advice to her was to avoid and toughen up. She could not show fear or hurt. When a barb was flung her way, she was to swat it away metaphorically. Their words would have no power over her. I told her to picture Glinda the Good Witch and keep her quote in mind, “You have no power here! Now begone, before somebody drops a house on you!” I advised her to imagine herself above their comments, “I feel sorry for you. You sad, sad person.”
She stopped giving them the satisfaction that their taunts were hurting her. They moved on to, presumably, find a new target and she found friends, a place in Band (my kiddo is way more musically inclined than I could ever hope to be) and has matured into a wonderful young woman. One who is much stronger and independent than I was at her age.
One of my best friends in the world is a school counselor (not a guidance counselor, a real counselor) and she would estimate nearly all of the problems the kids in her school face are bully-related. Her school works exceptionally hard at combating bad behavior and has the staff actively working to stop it and funds to support the endeavor. Yet, bullying remains a part of school life. Most schools don’t even have counselors like my friend to help stop it, let alone any money to throw at the problem.
I laugh at schools which enforce “bully-free zones.” Bullying doesn’t happen according to any sort of rules and time frames. It doesn’t go away if the victim tells teachers – it gets worse. My gut feeling is most teachers don’t really want to confront the bullies because that would mean confronting the parents who are likely bullies themselves. I would say only after a physical injury has happened would school officials pay any attention and mostly to deflect any litigious behavior. Still, I’m not sure what any school could do to curtail bullying except suspension or permanently kicking the offenders out – and that only fixes the bullying on school grounds.
Bullying can only be stopped when the tormentor feels the wrath of the tormented (fights back) or gets ignored and dismissed (you can’t hurt me anymore). Even in the latest Star Trek movie, Spock had to confront his attackers eventually. However, it did take 35 previous attempts to generate that particular emotional response.
My hope for all who are bullied is to have the support of friends and family. They can’t fight your battles for you, but they can give you inner strength and confidence when confronted. They can remind you of your self-worth and that everyday above ground is a good day.
Let’s have more good days.