As our children get ready to return to school, there is always the concern for protecting them against bullies. Why do people bully? I don’t know if we will ever fully understand the inner workings of the mind of the bully, but I think that we can all agree that being bullied is hurtful and can have long term adverse effects.
I interviewed one author last year about one of her books and she said that she still remembers the faces of her tormentors from her childhood. Though she is now in her 60’s, she still sees them plainly as if it was yesterday. Being bullied is every parent’s nightmare and I have seen parents transfer their children out of some schools to get them away from the source of the inflicted pain.
As an educator, we often feel helpless when students report that they are being bullied. Of course, the aggression usually takes place when there are no adults around like in bathrooms, on playgrounds, in the lunchroom, in route to and from school. And now, there is the new deterrent called social media.
We have had to settle countless wars over what someone posted about someone else on Facebook. I privately thought, “This kid has a Facebook account?” Really? He or she is barely making the grade and they have time to harass others on social media.
I just finished reading a book called This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. In brief, the story is about a 15 year-old boy who went to a party, drank too much and ended up kissing some young girl (about 13). She hosted the gathering while her parents were out of town. He realized that she is very young and told her so. In retaliation, she later sent him a lewd video of herself and it goes viral, As a result, it affected him at his private school and his father’s job where he is given time off until the scandal died down. His younger sister saw the video on her mother’s laptop and emulated the girl in the video for her kindergarten classmates to her mother’s horror. It was a powerful message about the dangers of social media and the marriage ultimately fell apart.
It still focused on some aspect of bullying and it is something that we try to get right, but don’t always make the cut. Educator, author and friend, Rita Felton-Mitchell, said, “Traditionally, I confront the bully, if appropriate. Additionally, I do anything necessary to separate the bully and the victim during lunch and recess. Lastly, if the problem is very serious, I would contact parents and administration for assistance.”
Oftentimes, those who bully are extremely insecure and they may feel threatened in some way. They are usually territorial and like to guard what they presume to be their turf. I had my fifth grade woes when I would get my note right before lunch, saying “We are not playing with you today.” My heart would sink. Of course, it was not every day, because then, I would have known what to expect. But the leader of the pact sent her foot soldiers to deliver the message stealthily for the surprise attack to exact the shock effect. It worked.
Do we ever forget? I am afraid not. But as adults, we can be more attentive and listen to what the children are saying to us. It is a big deal. If they don’t want to go to school or if there is a change in their behavior, we need to look deeper and see what is really going on. No one deserves to be picked on nor bullied.
I took a course which centered on bullying a few years back. It talked about how the bystander can be considered just as guilty as the bully. We hear in airports and other public places, “If you see something, say something.” A bystander is one who watches and does nothing. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So, we must raise our children to at least go get help when they see mayhem taking place and not sit idly by.
Bullying is a very serious affront and can have negative effects on the psyche. Some countries like Canada take it very seriously and have a ‘no-tolerance’ policy. As the school year gets underway, we should all keep our eyes open and ears peeled back as we strive to protect our most precious commodity- our children.
September 8, 2015