Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bullying is the "Elephant in the Room"

According to the news, parent's of 15-year-old Canadian suicide victim, Ashkan Sultani, have decided that their son's upcoming memorial will be a lesson in the tragic consequences of bullying. They want to stress prevention and compassion.

School administrators fear that this will cause copycat suicides and would prefer to make it about suicide prevention. I don't know enough about what would trigger a copycat suicide. And it's too risky for me to speculate.

What I do know is that Ashkan's parents are the experts in what unrelenting mean behavior did to their child. They say that "bullying is the elephant in the room."

My heart goes out to them. I applaud them for taking on the subject but alas, they have nothing to lose. They've already experienced the greatest loss. The memorial service was scheduled for tomorrow, Ashkan's birthday.

I still believe that kids don't always know what they're doing when they ostracize, say mean things, share a mean text or forward mean messages on Facebook.

After giving bullying surveys in a school recently, I came away firmly believing that kids, especially in elementary school, do mean things but don't always know that it's "bullying." They just think it's what the next kid is doing, they're getting away with it, and it makes them look cooler. Bullying prevention efforts have to happen in the younger years and not only in schools.

It's a good time to give your own survey at home. Ask your kids if they ever treat others badly...or do they get treated badly? Do they witness others getting treated badly, and if so, do they feel comfortable stepping up in some way, even if it's simply telling an adult who could step up? Ask them what bullying means.
Start the conversation. Talk about the "elephant in the room." Do this on Ashkan's birthday.

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