Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kindness and Bullying

One of my biggest fears in regards to my kids is when the day comes that we have to deal with bullying. I am a member of a local online community for moms and read stories of bullying. I watch Dr. Phil and Oprah and hear stories of bullying. I hear stories on the news- local and national. It's scary. I got bullied 3 times that I remember. All 3 times were in junior high. The first time there was a girl, A, and she decided she didn't like me. I had no clue why and still don't. She kept threatening me. So I told her to meet me in the park after school and said I'd fight her. She never showed and never bothered me again. The second time was a bit worse. Another girl, R, didn't like me. I don't think she liked anyone. The furthest it went was her following me home, taunting and teasing and threatening me the entire way. I walked in the door and broke down and told my mom what happened. She called the school immediately and there wasn't ever another issue. And finally- a couple of boys who taunted and teased. Nothing terribly serious but certainly cruel. I didn't go to the same high school as any of these kids so maybe that was why it didn't continue. But I did run into one of those boys in college and confronted him. He very sincerely apologized- which was good. But these days, bullying is much worse. And it seems that it isn't just the biggest boy in class threatening to beat you up if you don't hand over your Twinkie. It's groups of girls picking on the weakest link... it's violent and cruel. It's life destroying for fun, for laughs, for power and control. It's a whole new realm of meanness. Dr. Phil was all about bullying today and there were some things that really brought up that fear (girls talking about parents not taking action and just brushing off what was happening) and there were some things that gave me hope. I want you to know about the Kind Campaign. If you have daughters or know any teenage girls, go check out that site. They are in the process of making a documentary- currently traveling the country, collecting stories. Some of the stories already documented were shared on Dr. Phil today and were very touching- stories of being bullied and stories of being the bully (and hating herself for it). I want you to think about parenting and the parenting choices you make. How we parent our kids helps to determine what kind of choices they will make in the future. It's why I am so serious about this job. It's why I want to constantly be doing my best. There are studies showing the correlation between parenting style and bullying. Dr. Phil's son, Jay, has long been fighting the bullying battle. He's written books and he visits schools and does presentations and has kids take an anti-bullying pledge. Today, he spoke about parenting and raising kids who won't become bullies. How Parents Encourage Bullying: * Exercise absolute control over your kids. * Threaten the child with spanking or other violence. * Attempt to humiliate or embarass the child as a way to punish them. * Rule by fear. * Push competition & contest too much. * Teach that mistakes are unacceptable. * Tell your kids what to do, say, think. Humiliation, embarassment, violence, pain, control, fear. Are these words we ever want associated with parenting? With loving our kids? With teaching and growing our kids into the adults they are destined to become? Those are all words that I associate with bullying, cruelty, and a lack of creativity and empathy. Oct 4-10 is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week. What can you commit to doing to unite your community? And beyond that, what can you do to encourage kindness in your community, in your family, in your relationships? I think back to my BE vs DO post recently and I realize that one thing I always want to BE is kind. Even when I am disciplining my kids, I want to be kind. Firm and kind. I want my kids to grow up in a home filled with kindness- actionable love. I want them to witness Jeff and I being kind to each other. I want them to experience the kindness we give to them. I want them to practice the kindness they are taught. What experiences have you had with bullies? Were you bullied? Were you a bully? Have your kids been bullied? What has your experience been in dealing with your school to get help? What do you think the answers are to ending bullying, preventing bullying?


Crazee Juls said...

As a sub-(of all grade levels)-I've noticed bullying here and there--and it does seem different than back in our day... thankfully, my kids go to a pretty small school and they're not subjected to bullying very often--because everyone knows everyone, but it does happen, and it's not fun... I'll definitely be checking out the link that you suggested. Thanks for posting this! :)

Eternal Lizdom said...

A friend of mine shared the following on Facebook as a coment to this blog post and I don't want anyone to miss it:

Thanks for posting this. Yes, I was bullied and it was very damaging to me. My parents and teachers just told me to "turn them off like a radio." Problem is, that taught me to stay in abusive situations and I thought I deserved the treatment. I was taught that it's never okay to fight back and I was not given the option to leave the damaging school... Read More situations, so I was stuck. I had no choice but to receive the abuse as a child because I couldn't leave, couldn't fight, and everyone refused to remedy the situation. My self-esteem was horrible, I was angry, and it took me a long, long time to believe that someone could really like me. At no other time in life do we not have the choice to escape an abusive situation. To compound matters, my Dad was abusive and dishonest, and my Mom (though she tried her best) was quite depressed, cranky, and tired. I was left with no advocates, and surprise surprise, the first time I got married I chose someone abusive who did the same thing to me. My empowerment did not come until I LEFT that relationship, realizing I was an adult and I had a choice and deserved better.

My best friend had a similar experience, being the fat girl in school and then went on to an abusive marriage that she got out of.

BOTH of us plan to homeschool our kids. Bullying is only part of the reason for me...the other part is the racism and the politics in this area. I want (my child) to have the coping skills to deal with those issues before he's thrown out to the sharks all alone.

Teacher Tom said...

I recently read a quote from the Dalai Lama: "My religion is kindness."

At one point or another everyone is bullied: it's one of those experiences we've all shared. Most of us survive it just fine, however, and are stronger for it. And, frankly, most of us have at one time or another bullied someone else. I have much more powerful memories, in fact, of the times I was the perpetrator than when I was the victim and to this day those memories cause me to flush with shame. Those moments, as cruel as I might have been, are vital to my being the man I am today.

(Chronic bullying like that described by your FB friend is another matter entirely, for both the bully and the victim.)

There is nothing more heartbreaking than when one's own child is bullied. My daughter often came home in tears during elementary school. Although I felt like killing those damn kids, instead I phoned their parents. In every case, they were mortified, and we had a discussion about how to help our kids get along. This is only possible, of course, if the parents at least have some sort of relationship.

To me that's the biggest difference between bullying today vs. when I was growing up: bullying can only get really vicious under cover of the kind of anonymity offered by our huge, monolithic schools where we drop our kids off and have education "done" to them. When schools were more of a complete community (such as neighborhood schools) in which families knew one another, bullying had much more trouble taking root. That's one of the reasons that we chose to send our daughter to a K-12 school where there was a genuine opportunity to build community.

The solution is more community, I firmly believe that.