Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Click Here But Have Tissues Ready

A New Low..Boy with CP Being Tormented by Classmates...

I usually try to stay upbeat but this story has me reeling with anger. How can this happen? A 15-year old boy with cerebral palsy being emotionally humiliated and physically abused by classmates -- since 3rd grade????

By the way, one of the most disturbing aspects of this abuse is holding him down and pouring dog food in his mouth. Barbaric. But we're letting it happen.

As Bill Cosby would say, "Come on, people!". We need to start recognizing that we are raising an angry society and the line just keeps getting crossed.

No one stepped in??? It's a simple lesson for everyone -- Don't let things like this happen. Say something. Do Something. Anything.

And talk to your children about never engaging in cruel behavior even as a "bystander." Watching and/or knowing and not doing anything about it is cruel in itself.

We're not saying enough to our children to make them aware of right and wrong. We're abdicating our responsibility and letting entertainment take over. Kids are watching enough "reality" tv to presume that the mean behavior they see IS reality. It's not...yet. But because we don't explain that it's not or simply turn the tv off, it's slowly but surely becoming reality. Somehow kids in the U.S. are getting the message that mean is somewhat "cool."

Irresponsible producers will never see the light and do the right thing. So Step Up Parents. Step Up Kids. And Step Up Schools. This should be breaking all of our hearts.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eye Contact

Can we discuss one of the most insidious of all bullying tactics? Not giving eye contact. Yep. If you've ever been on the receiving end, you know what I mean. It's a message that you're not worthy. And when done as a group, watch out. You can end up in the fetal position.

It's a tactic not only used by middle and high school girls but by many passive aggressive adults. I've personally used it and it works. But I didn't feel good about it and I'm not doing it again.

It's a great weapon because the perpetrator can get away with it. It's subtle but effective.

I've decided to call people out on it. Why not? And, it's possible to do that without lowering yourself. Most bullying can be stopped with just a few words.

Next time someone doesn't give me eye contact intentionally, I'm going to try to get their eye and say, "Is everything ok?" And if they ask why I ask that, I'm going to reply, "Because you're not looking at me and you seem tense." At the very least it makes them think that they're not as subtle as they thought they were. They'll have to find some other means to make me feel small.

But for kids it's different. A lot harder. I think adults should be aware of the kind of hurt it causes and at least step in with awareness and sympathy.

But that might not be enough. Anyone out there have advice?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jelly Bean Wisdom

My son, Peter, coaches the "mighty" Jelly Beans, an adorable assortment of 4-year old boys and girls who are learning a team sport for the first time.

It dawned on me as I watched them enthusiastically make goals for the opposing team (The Peanuts) that this was much more than learning a sport. It was learning how to treat each other.

Out of the blue, a frustrated little Peanut shoved a Jelly Bean right to the ground. It was the quickest way to get the ball. After the Ref reprimanded the perpetrator, the game was about to resume. I was proud to see that big, tall, 25-year old Peter stopped the game to kneel down, look his pint-sized player in the eye and compliment him for NOT hitting back.

When the action started up again, all was forgiven. Then the craziest thing happened. The little boy that had been shoved went from feeling shaken to feeling full of confidence and went on to make three goals -- for his own team this time.

I guess the moral of this Jelly Bean story is that if more adults took the time to stop, connect and compliment, the emotional effects of bullying wouldn't be so brutal.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Mom Should Feel Proud

I was talking to a young girl, now in 8th grade, about how hard the transition was for her when she moved schools two years ago. It was tough. The girls were not as inclusive as they should have been and had a tendency to gossip and the boys in her class were rough and never missed a chance to tease.

But things turned around the next year. I asked her what happened. She said she didn't share her problems with the other kids because she wasn't sure they would use it against her. She said she started trying to find friends she could trust by working on different projects with different kids and getting to know them. Eventually, she found a different set of friends.

When I asked her what her advice was for other kids, she said, "Tell an adult. I told my mother and she listened. It made things better."

Actually, listening isn't as easy as it sounds. When I asked her mom about it, she said, "Listening. A lot of parents don't do that but it's the job. Moms worry about their hair or going to the mall more than listening to their kids but it's the most important thing."

In this case, it spared her sweet girl hours of hurt.

This mom should feel very proud.