Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When Parents Are Pushed to Protect Their Bullied Young

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By now, almost everyone has seen this story. If you've ever had a child bullied, it's hard not to sympathize with Mr. James Jones. His lack of self restraint is hard to watch and not the way to handle things, but the raw emotion behind it is heartbreaking and understandable.

We've also heard his apology and plea to other parents to handle this situation differently. It reminded me of another bus story of a parent warrior. Darlene's a dental hygenist with two children. Her youngest daughter was repeatedly harassed in middle school. With a studious and quiet personality, her daughter found it impossible to stick up for herself. The school was notified multiple times for three years but it didn't stop...until Darlene took things in her own hands. A very risky move. On the way back from a school trip to an amusement park, she stood up in the bus, told the kids she knew they were bullying her daughter and to stop, and then asked them to show more kindness. That takes guts but I thought it was a bad idea.

What if the kids made things worse after Darlene's speech? What if they laughed at her? What if the other parents on the bus were not supportive? Mother and daughter were desperate. What's amazing is that 12 year-old Tricia encouraged her mom to stand up. She had gotten to the point that she didn't care what the other kids said. She had nothing to lose. What a sad statement in itself.

Darlene had a plan and she kept her cool (no unfortunate expletives)...and it worked. Would I ever do it? Not on your life. I'd be too afraid of the repercutions...but it just shows you how desperate and angry parents can feel and how they'll walk over hot coals for their kids. At the very least, she knew her daughter would know how much she cared and how she would risk negative consequences to stick up for her.

It can't get to this point. The kids on the bus in Orlando should have been stopped way before there was this type of problem. There are busses full of kids at this very moment that are out of control. Busses, playgrounds, hallways and cafeterias are the hot spots for bullying.

Here are some resources that offer solutions for these specific danger zones.

Peaceful Playgrounds

School Safety: Mentoring Program on the Bus

Olweus: School-wide, including classroom, cafeteria, playground

It's amazing how desperate a parent can feel when their child is demeaned. Amazing but not surprising.

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