Standing Up To Bullies
When my oldest daughter was in middle school, one locale for bullying was the school bus. Kids were not yet posting every moment on YouTube or texting video of every humiliation. What she endured was torture enough. I was very happy that my daughter felt that she could talk to me about what was happening.
I offered her several options for dealing with the situation. I could talk with the parents of the bully; I could talk with the school bus driver; I could talk with the guidance counselor at the school. I explained to her why it was wrong – outside of just being mean – that this individual was bullying her and also explained that this specific type of bullying could also be classified as sexual harassment. I told her that I could handle the situation for her or that she could be present with me when I made the complaint.
She was in the seventh grade at the time and was painfully shy. I was very surprised when she told me that she was going to talk to the guidance counselor herself. I insisted that I go along with her and she refused. I continued to offer my support later that night and the next morning before she left. She continued to refuse.
I know that she did talk to the guidance counselor because they called me later that day. I cannot imagine the look on their faces when my daughter walked in and told them she wanted to file a complaint of sexual harassment! She told me later that she had used that angle because she knew they would not ignore her. I was so proud of her for standing up for herself. The bully was suspended from the school bus and was informed that they were not to bother my daughter on the school grounds or they would receive detention. Their parents were called, and I received a call from them that night. They were not very concerned about their child’s behavior and I expected as much. Bullying is a learned behavior and often originates at home.
It was not the last time that my daughter received taunts and harassment from bullies; however, she continued to stand up for herself, refusing to accept their attempts at humiliation.
It is very important that we teach our children that they do not have to accept the taunts, teasing and threats from bullies. With advances in technology, bullying is not just a face-to-face encounter anymore. The internet supports many forms of bullying from YouTube videos to Facebook posts to threatening emails and IM messages. Photos and videos are passed through a large number of screens in very little time via our cell phones. There is always someone standing ready to snap the photo or film the most embarrassing moments of our lives.
Standing up to a bully does not have to entail fighting back in the sense that we used to consider. In years past, our children were encouraged to stand their ground and even fight if necessary to counter a bully’s attacks. It is not necessary – nor safe – to go that far (though sometimes our children are forced into these situations.) This leads back to the one parenting skill that I continuously stress the most – communication. It is so very important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child(ren). When you talk to them about bullying, make sure they know that if the situation is happening in a place where there are other authority figures present, it is okay – and they should – inform these people immediately. They do not have wait until they get home to talk to you. The sooner they make it known that they are the target of bullies, the better. Make sure your child(ren) know that you always want to hear about what they are going through at school, in the neighborhood, wherever they engage in outside activities. Tell them it is important that they do not keep these troubles to themselves, no matter what the bully tells them. The sooner someone in authority is involved, the sooner the bullying can be stopped.
Unfortunately, there have been incidents in past years where the parents of the bully actually become involved in the bullying. It is sad that the world has come to a point where those who are to set the primary example for our children are leading them down the wrong path. But when this happens, do not hesitate to step in and involve the principal, the coach, the police – whomever necessary to bring the situation to resolution.
If the bullying does take place on the internet or via telephone messages and photos, our first inclination is to erase whatever we can to minimize the number of views and decrease the pain for our child(ren). Do not act so quickly! Be sure that you print everything that has been said, typed, posted, tweeted, videoed, etc. Make sure these items are dated and that the printed documents clearly indicate who said or posted every document or word. Notify the owners of any site where documents are posted. Most reputable sites (such as YouTube) will review the post upon complaint and will remove it if it goes against their policies. They will even block the account of the individual who posted it and/or turn the information over to the appropriate authorities when warranted.
We, as parents, need to remain strong in our convictions that our children must stand up to bullying – not with counter-attacks by any means, but with appropriate actions that result in justice.
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