Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tricia's Story: What's Your Take?

Let’s start with a school in New York: Tricia's Story

Tricia, a smart, quiet seventh grader has been constantly taunted for two years. Her classmates tease her about everything from what she wears to her bushy eyebrows. She sits alone at lunch and Tricia’s classmates make sure to ignore her in the hallways or “accidentally” bump into her.

Tricia has started to put herself down and is feeling “ugly” and “dumb.” Mom, an extrovert, advises her introverted daughter: “Just yell back at them when they tease and take no nonsense.”

The “nonsense” continues and after many letters and phone calls to the school administration with no results, her mother’s patience wears thin. She asks Tricia if she could talk to the kids directly and, surprisingly, Tricia encourages it. So on the way home from a school trip to an amusement park, Tricia’s mom stands up, asks the teacher if she could say a few words, and to the amazement of all on the bus, Tricia’s mom is blunt. She calls out the entire class and the boisterous mood turns to shock. As they squirm in their seats, Tricia’s mom tells them in no uncertain terms that she knows what they’re doing and they better stop.

Right or wrong? Stay tuned for the next Tangled Ball blog when we ask the experts to weigh in.

The Tangled Ball Theory

Flipping through the channels or reading the paper, the subject of bullying seems to be getting more and more attention. Even Oprah is tackling it. But when I started to research it for myself after watching Columbine unfold, I realized it was so much more than stereotypical Jock-Or-Nerd social strife. It’s about superiority, inferiority, self-esteem, empowerment, communication, sadness and a lot of confusion.

In short, it’s a tangled ball.

I have a library of books and have been in and out of many meetings and conventions across the country about all types of bullying. After all of the reading, listening and networking, one thing is clear: there is no “one size fits all” solution. Each strand, each perspective needs to be “untangled” one home at a time.

So here’s the first example of a bullying situation. Each bullying situation is different but it happens absolutely everywhere. Obviously, we’re not crazy enough to use real names but everything else is true. We’ll spell out the situation and how adults handled it.

Next, we’ll bring in the experts.