Beating the Bullies

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is estimated that each school day, over 160,000 children stay home because of bullying.
Since many of us have experienced some form of bullying we know that the power of the bully is diminished when there are no followers.

Each day, when your child leaves for school remember to give them a hug to let them know they are loved. In a more subtle way, encourage their own personal power, and as you discuss the kind of a day they had over dinner, listen carefully to what they say and know when to step in when they need you.

Here is a high school student’s college admissions essay that I had to share:

“If I held the thermometer tightly in my hands, I could raise the temperature just enough so that I could stay home from school without my parents being concerned enough to take me to the doctor. This worked in the past, whenever I felt the need to fake an illness to get a break from being teased at school.

I had resigned myself to the fact that the teasing had to be my fault. Perhaps I should have raised my hand less when I had the right answer. Perhaps I should have laughed at the joke, even if I didn’t think it was funny. It was about fitting in. Although it was fairly constant, the teasing was subtle, too subtle to report without making me sound like a wimp.

One day everything changed. It happened as the 5th grade lined up for library. John was short by 3rd grade standards. He wore very thick glasses, and was not able to stand up straight due to some sort of spine curvature. This made him a prime target for the bullies. The teasing inflicted on John was much worse than anything I had experienced. But on that particular day, some of our classmates started knocking on his front and back to laugh at the sound that resulted from the plastic plates he wore under his shirt. It was more than I could take.

I don’t know where it came from, but I became almost ‘Hulk-like’ with anger. To this day, I honestly can’t say if I stood up for John because of the cruel punishment he was getting, or if I was finally dealing with the fact that neither of us, or anyone else for that matter, deserved to be treated that way. I stood in the middle of the cool kids, only a bit taller than John, and let them have it. My voice was loud and cracking, and my cheeks were flushed, but I somehow found the words that had been buried inside me for the entire year. ‘Do you like being mean? How would you feel if you were in his place?’ I was so afraid it would slip that I was really referring to the way they treated me, but fortunately I didn’t. When I finished, one kid made a joke, but the rest were quiet and looked down. The crowd dispersed as the teacher came around, but she never did understand the minor commotion.

We are now in our senior year in high school, yet John and I have never spoken of that day. Sometimes he will give me a little smile as we pass each other in the hall. Perhaps it’s my imagination but I have to believe he stood just a bit taller from that day on. I know I did.”

Tina Nocera
Parental Wisdom

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. Sandra McCarthy said

    Tina,

    I have to say if this was told 20 years ago it would be the dramatic simple inspiration that its meant to be… but in todays world I fear not…

    I am not synical nor pessimistic normally, yet the social analyst forget to be all inclusive… and appreciate that in today’s world; tooting your horn at a driver that cut you off and clearly endangered you… may be the last thing you do…

    I also don’t think that the very young, the largely co-multi-single-institutional-daycare-step-blended-community custodial children, should be taught and encouraged to handle discomfort,confrontation, and disrespect from their peers primarily independent of the nearest adults… this is what I witnessed in the K-3 level… and I thought to myself …
    hmmmmmmm this doesn’t feel right to me…
    I was raised in the 60s and it was OK to go to a parent, teacher or other adult when another child was being inapropriate… its highly discouraged today… it seems so contradictory when than as meer adolescents they want them to come to them with disturbing activity of their peers…

    it confuses me and I am an adult…

    all I can think is What are they thinking…

    I so appreciate that I evidently was brought up being coddled,

    gee what a thought to “coddle a child… what was society thinking back then?

    and to spite that I evolved into a very

    independent, productive adult member of society.

    Sandra

    Hasn’t anyone seen the movie, “Pay it forward” ?

  2. Tina,

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. It is so devastating to young children who never successfully overcome it. The young person in your story did. My own two sons now 22 and 19 both were bullied. My oldest was bullied in kindergarten. He was a big kid but a kind hearted one. Having beaten up bullies who beat up my younger brother as a child, I had great sympathy. I told him that as a lawyer, I could tell him that he has the right to hit back and defend himself. He worried that he’d be in trouble with teachers and the principal. I told him they can’t take away his right and he should have them call me. Those adults don’t understand bullying and often make it worse. If you involve authorities they can’t offer 24 hours protection. You child needs to learn to deal with them. Bullies tend to be cowards looking for victims who won’t fight back. You have to stand up for yourself. My younger son, experienced it in high school where he was being pushed as the bullies walked by. He was tearful and uncomprehending as he wished no one harm. It isn’t about that. You have to remove yourself as a victim. As a self defense exercise, I made both boys push me when I pushed them so that they would give themselves permission to defend themselves. It was only an exercise to give them practice. They needed to connect with their outrage at being violated. My oldest son was stunned when he hit the boy back that the boy never bothered him again. In fact, he became friendly with him. My youngest son got the same result. He even got a reputation as being rather strong. Both of their self esteem went up but more importantly, they learned they have the right not to be victims. They learned that it is the bully who is in the wrong and being unreasonable. It was with great sadness that I later learned that the boy who picked on my son in kindergarten came from a home where his father emotionally and physically abused him and in high school they young man had a mental break down. We can’t fix the bullies whose home life may be bad. We can teach our children how not to be victimized. I am not condoning violence. I am condoning self defense. Thanks for bringing this important topic up!

    Ellen

  3. Leith Woods said

    Thanks for addressing this issue, Tina. I just wish the schools would commit to having often and ongoing assemblies concerning this very serious issue. If they did it as often as they have those DARE assemblies, maybe we can erradicate bullying. We also need for the parents to be exposed to information regarding bullying. Home is the first place children are taught how to treat others and todays parents have really dropped the ball on “do unto others” ! The New Jersey Bar Assoc. has a section on their website concerning an Anti-bullying law that is pending in the State legislature. I encourage your readers to go to the Website and read it at :

    http://www.njsbf.com/njsbf/student/eagle/winter02-5.cfm.

    What struck me the most was the section -“Caring majority” needed. It stressed that the focus should not only be on the victim and the bully, but it must be on the bystanders as well- the ones who witness the bullying incidents. Most times they become sympathetic to the bully and not the victim, because they fear they will become the next target. And if we, the adults in charge, do not intervene, then that sends a message to the bystanders that this type of behavior is tolerated and they might try to mimic the bully’s behavior to see if they could get away with it too. We must teach our children to “care” about others, especially those who are mistreated and not to tolerate verbal or physical bullying. The quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. you cite is my absolute favorite quote from him. Thanks again for your attention to this and other important matters. Keep up the good work !!

    Leith

  4. Thanks, Tina, for this article. We will include a link in the next issue of Parenting News, a free weekly e-zine from the International Network for Children and Families (www.INCAF.com). Our international team of parenting instructors is available for workshops for parents and teachers on this topic. Please visit http://www.INCAF.com for more or to subscribe to Parenting News.

    Maggie Macaulay, MS Ed
    http://www.WholeHeartedParenting.com

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: