Last week I reminded you that everyone has a story. I hoped to encourage you to take time to understand someone and their situation before making judgments or comments about them. The story of Brandon, last week, is only one of the many cases that I have heard, of the challenges children experience in the face of bullying. The story was true, only his name was changed. Brandon had a tough situation, and the bullying he experienced only made it more difficult.
I’d like to take advantage of this month, by bringing you some more information on bullying. Bullying occurs all over the place ~ within every school and every community. It’s an awful act that isn’t just part of growing up. It’s violent and harms a persons’ physical and mental health. One in every four kids get bullied, which adds up to 13 million kids a year. A child is bullied every seven minutes www.katiecouric.com. How would you like to have your child hear such words as, “Why don’t you just go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you.” That is what a 17 year old heard in Ohio, and so he did.
If bullying doesn’t end in bullicide, we’re lucky, but what children experience ~ they never forget. I’ve heard emotional stories from adults of their own childhood bullying and present cases from children as young as kindergarten. Katie was bullied for being too skinny, Amy for dressing in her own style, Emily was bullied for being good at sports and smart in school, Derek was bullied for not playing football, and Adam was constantly pushed on the bus, just because he was young. The action is not aimed at one kind of kiddo, but it generally comes from kiddos with one thing in common; they are missing out on something. It could be discipline, nurturing, acceptance, or an understanding of differences.
We can say zero tolerance and hang posters to encourage respect, but “there has to be more than tape behind those posters” (Governors Task Force on Prevention of School Bullying Listening Session). We have to first acknowledge that it occurs and that it is a serious issue. And then be open to talk and listen. Ask your children about bullying. You may be surprised what you hear. Learn the facts and then don’t stop there. Educate, share knowledge and wisdom, advocate for children who are bullied by talking to their teachers, principals, or superintendents. Demonstrate acceptance and teach your children to be kind, rather than critical, so they don’t learn to be bullies.
Page 2 of 2 - We have a diverse town and we are very fortunate for that. Have you ever heard that people that grow up in a small town and never experience diversity have a hard time adjusting in the big world? Diversity offers an opportunity to learn and grow. Celebrate the differences among us. “The end of bullying begins with you!” (National Bullying Prevention Center)