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Bullying: My Story and What You Can Do to Help

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The growing epidemic of bullying seems to be in the headlines more frequently.  It’s great that the issue is drawing some attention.  Unless that attention yields some action, however, it is pointless.

Right now it seems that the issue of bullying gets attention only after someone dies as either a direct or indirect result of bullying.  Suddenly parents and school administrators are up in arms.  And then, just as quickly as the adrenaline rushes into the body, the fervor for drawing attention to bullying leaves again.

The actual issue doesn’t go away, however. Kids are bullied every single day…whether anyone has died or not.  Kids are afraid to go to school.  Kids are afraid to tell administrators and parents.  Kids are becoming more isolated.  They feel alone, and their self-esteem is so shattered by the bullying that many times they don’t feel they deserve to be helped.  They suffer in silence.

Recently a student (who calls herself Sarah) at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland posted a note on Reddit saying that administrators had failed to listen to several complaints about a boy who had been bullying several students.  She said “The bullying isn’t worthy of school attention unless I die.”  The sad thing about that statement is that it is true.  If Sarah were to commit suicide, a plan would be developed to help stop bullying.

As a parent of 3 grown children, I can remember times when they all came to me at one time or another complaining about being bullied.  Although none of my children were persistently bullied, the times that they were bullied proved to be very difficult for them.  I can only imagine how it must feel to be bullied on a daily basis.  I can only imagine what it must be like to be bullied over the internet as well as in person.

I remember well that when my children came to me to tell me about a specific incident of bullying, I was conflicted as to what to do.  At the time the school of thought was to let the kids try and manage it themselves, because they would learn how to manage conflict that way.  There was also the school of thought that by stepping in as a parent, I might escalate the problem.  After all, what child wants to be called a “big baby” or a  “Mama’s boy”?  There were times I followed both schools of thought.  There were times I wish I had done more.

I also remember when I was bullied in high school.  I was dating a boy, and his old girlfriend was very jealous of me. She told all of her friends to shun me and call me names. One day she went into the boy’s locker room and wrote horrible things about me all over the lockers.  She wrote that I was a slut, and wrote in detail things that I would do.  She wrote my number on the boy’s lockers, saying “for a good time, call this number”.  All that she wrote was a lie, and I remember wanting to crawl under the nearest rock and never come out.  I cried and cried for days, and didn’t want to go to school.  I kept trying to tell my parents that I had a sore throat, but that only worked for so long.  I didn’t want to tell my parents what the girl did or the horrible things she had said about me.  What if they believed her?  This was around the time that my father was sexually abusing me too, so I had no idea what his reaction would be.

Somehow my father found out what the girl had done.  And in one of the fondest memories I have of my father, he went to the school and talked to the principal.  He had the principal call the girl to the office where he confronted her.  He then requested that she spend the day removing all that she had written about me from the lockers, as well as apologize to me in person.  Another stipulation was that she never mention the incident again to anyone or retaliate against me in any way.

I’ll never forget being called to the office and seeing my father standing there.  He just looked at me and said, “You know those things that Carolyn wrote about you in the boy’s locker room?”  I said, “Yes”…wondering how he knew about it.  He then said, “Those things are gone now.  No worries.”  About that time, Carolyn walked out of the principal’s office and with her head hanging low she said, “Sorry”.  I’m sure she was sorrier at getting caught than sorry about what she did, but at that moment it was enough to satisfy me.

What made me the happiest, however, was that my father had stood up for me.  At that moment I forgot about all of the bad things that he had done to me.  I focused on the fact that he cared enough to protect me from this bully.

I also remember being bullied in the 7th grade.  My family had just moved to a Pennsylvania, and it was my first time being in a new school.  It was also my first time ever riding a school bus.  In North Carolina, my parents had always taken me to school.  The bullying started at the bus stop, and it continued until I got home in the afternoon.  The kids made fun of my southern accent, my clothes, and anything else they could think of.  They played games at the bus stop, and the loser had to sit next to me.  During the bus ride to school, they would call me a “Beverly Hillbilly”, and ask me if I brought some possum to eat for lunch. I was a bit overweight, and they also made fat jokes. I was mortified.  I wanted to die.

The bus driver came to my rescue.  He was a kind older gentleman and his name was Greggie.  He moved me to the front of the bus right behind him, and it became my permanent seat.  He would talk to me during the bus ride, and in doing that I could not hear what was being said behind me.  All of the kids on the bus loved Greggie, so they were all a bit jealous that I had been given a seat behind him.  Soon the bullying stopped.  I have no doubt that he also told them to stop their evil words to me, but I never heard him do it.

As parents and school personnel, we have a duty to protect our children.  There should be no ambiguity about that.  Not only do we protect them physically, we protect them emotionally.  Life is difficult enough with the regular everyday roadblocks that come our way.  For a child to be forced to deal with a bullying issue on his own is too much to ask.  If we are conflicted as to how to deal with the issue, how do we expect our children to deal with it?  Sure, we may not deal with it perfectly.  We may even make it worse by whatever course of action we choose to take.  But guess what will stand out in the mind of the bulllied child?  The fact that you cared enough to do something. That will speak volumes.  And the child whose self-esteem is being slowly chipped away will slowly begin to heal and feel valuable again.

How can parents help stop bullying?

-Become involved.  If you are a parent, attend PTA meetings.  Engage with your child’s friends and the parents of your child’s friends.  Get to know your child’s teachers.  Become a presence to be reckoned with.

-Become aware.  Talk to your child.  Listen to your child.  Watch for changes in your child’s behavior.  And remember, a constant smile is no guarantee that everything is okay. I kept a smile on my face during all of my teenage years when I was being sexually abused but behind closed doors I cried buckets of tears. Pay attention to which sites your child is networking on via the computer.  Pay attention to cell phone contacts.

-Become pro-active.  Talk about bullying.  Attend meetings dealing with the issue.  Start a meeting dealing with the issue.  Talk to other parents about incidents of bullying.  Talk to teachers.  Let them know that you are a parent who cares and wants to be involved.  Let your children know that they can come to you about anything.  Set up parental controls on the computer.  Ask your children to see their Facebook or other social networking page.

Spend time with your children.  Time equals love.  Don’t think that you are demonstrating love by buying your child all of the latest gadgets or the latest designer fashions.  Anyone with money can do that. As a parent you are in a unique and valuable position to make your child feel loved and valuable as a human being, regardless of whether or not they are wearing the latest fashions. Spend time getting to know what your child is interested in, and engage in that activity with them, if possible.

-Build up your child’s self-esteem. A child with low self-esteem is a child who is more prone to being bullied. A child with low self-esteem is more prone to falling into addictive behaviors, teenage pregnancy, and suicide.

The children of today are tomorrow’s adults.  We set the precedence on how to deal with the bullying issue.  Today is the day to become involved.  Tomorrow may be too late.

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Written by cherylawilliams

March 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

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