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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ugly Side of Bullying: What You Can Do to Support Your Child


Columbine happened in my own backyard only twenty minutes from where I live.  I am sure many schools learned a valuable lessons with Columbine.   In honor of Bully Awareness week, I am inspired to write a post in the hopes others will get inspired  too.

February 6-10th is bully awareness week.  Do you have a child in school?  Chances are at one point your child may have been bullied in one or more ways.  No one is immune from the devastating blows bullying causes to one’s self-esteem.  What most parents do not know is kids are scared to report incidents of bullying because of fear.  If a child does not report the incident, then it makes it so much easier for the one doing the bullying to continue to cause harm.

Here are a few things parents can do to make sure their kids are not victims of bullying.
  • Monitor closely your child’s behavior at home.  Is he/she suddenly withdrawn?    
  • Does your child make excuses about not going to school? Find out the reason.
  • Is your child suddenly doing poorly in school? Again, look into why grades have fallen.
  • Does your child have problems making friends? This is more difficult to pinpoint; you might want to visit your child’s classroom to observe how the other kids react towards your child. Perhaps it might be a good idea to talk to your child’s teacher.  

  All of the above may be signs that your child may be a victim of bullying. The best thing a parent can do is to take the time to support your child and not let the situation get out of control.
 I knew right away, that something was severely wrong with my daughter.  Her senior year of high school, she suddenly stopped going out.  After talking to her numerous times, I found out her friends started drinking, and she did not want to go down that road.  Consequently, her friends started treating her like an outcast.  In fact, they deliberately did not invite her to any of their social functions.  She had been labeled “A goody two shoes” It tore me up inside to watch my daughter go through this.  Deliberately excluding someone from participating is a form of bullying because you are not good enough if you do not do what the group wants you to do.

As a concerned and caring parent, I talked to my daughter and the nights her friends went out socializing without her, we rented movies, we went out eating and shopping.  I am sure she would have preferred to be with people her own age, but what I did helped reassure that I cared, and it gave her comfort.  I believe, this is what we must do as parents to help bridge the gap to help our children. Eventually her friends came to realize drinking was wrong and made amends with my daughter.  I am glad she stood on the principles she had been taught.

As a classroom teacher, I understand how bullies work.  Most often, the person doing the bullying are very adept at making their victim miserable.  The most important thing I have done is to make my classroom a safe environment.  I do my best to develop a great rapport with my students.  Once I am able to develop that rapport, they can easily trust me.  I have my classroom rules posted in my classroom so it is clear that bullying or teasing of any kind will not be tolerated.  Understanding the mindset of a bully has led me to write my book of short stories titled: My Birthday Is September Eleven and Other Short Stories.  One of the stories “Zebra Boy” helps shed light on the problem with biracial children.  Biracial children have become a major target for bullies.   I have intercepted many notes written by bullies depicting biracial children in the most vicious ways. Again, in my opinion, the best defense is to develop a good relationship with your student or child, so he/ she can come seek help.  I also believe school districts have a responsibility to educate the student body on diversity.
   
As responsible parents and teachers, let us make a deliberate effort to make a change in a child’s life. Let us make 2012 the best Bully Awareness year ever.


24 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Nicole, on such an important topic. You've done a wonderful job here, and I want to commend you for helping make people aware of the epidemic within the US.

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  2. I'll facebook and tweet this. Wonderful post, Nicole. I'm so glad your daughter was so strong and had you for support, too. She must have a high self esteem. I think--but perhaps I'm wrong--that the lower your self esteem, the faster you can succumb to peer pressure. My daughter is lucky in that there's hardly any bullying at her school.

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    1. Hi Mayra,

      No, you are not wrong, kids with low self-esteem do succumb to peer pressure. You are blessed there are no bullies in your daughter's school. Here in the US, it is a huge problem. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

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  3. Check out www.bullies2buddies.com. I, too, was the victim of bullying as a kid but a few times I used some of the methods presented in the manuals on that site and they worked. If only I had understood to keep using them.

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    1. Wow Jan! Thanks for the url. I am sure a lot of people will get to check out this great site.

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  4. Hi Nicole. I'm sorry you were bullied. I was, too, for years. Back then, mostly our parents said it was part of life and get over it. Sadly, both of my sons were victims of bullying. My eldest was slapped by a classmate as he was getting off work. The assault happened under the wide eyes of 3 cameras. Unprovoked. My son, Zach, was humiliated and furious. With our last name being Church, and having gone to Catholic school and regular church-goers, he'd had it. We pressed charges. The assailant got 6 months in juvi - he'd had a long and close relationship with the cops to that point and the police were thrilled to put this kid out of play. My other son was recently cyber-bullied. A classmate thought it would be fun to put up a fake Facebook page of Dylan. Seems my young son was interested in sweaty men. And was ridiculed again for our last name, etc. We reported it to the police and that child received a night in juvi and 24 hours of community service. Fine behavior for an 8th grader. As parents, we hated having to have the police involved and worried about other retaliation against both boys. Thankfully that hasn't happened and we will be vigilant about anyone else who acts inappropriately toward our sons.

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    1. Oh my goodness! I am so sorry to hear about what your sons endured. Kids can be darn right cruel. Anything they can find to make fun of they will. Making fun of someone's name is over the top and yet it happens all the time. I have been called Weaver/Beaver . Thanks for sharing .

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    2. I have two words. Home. School. If I had to do it again, I would homeschool...oh man that's one word isn't it. Anyway, I would homeschool my kids. I was talking to a couple of boys who used to go to school with my son years ago. One of them told me that someone in my son's class picked him up and put him in the trash can and wouldn't let him out. What does that do to a kid's self-esteem you know? I wish I had that kid in front of me now because I'd stuff him in the trash can!

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    3. Dorothy,

      You certainly have a point about home school. I recently read a YA book where a bully did the same thing to the main character. It is a shame kids have to be subjected to such cruel acts. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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  5. I was a victim also of bullying and child abuse. Not a fun situation and I feel that all parents need to observe their children and be oh so watchful. A child is a precious thing. Authorities also have to be more aware and watchful then what they already are. Great post and thanks for sharing.

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    1. CelticLady,

      sorry you were a victim. I do agree with you about authorities should be more aware. Too many innocent kids suffer without any adults intervention. Thanks for sharing your heart and soul on the subject.

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  6. Excellent post, Nicole. Bullying is such a horrible thing. I was teased from the day I entered school to the day I left, but thankfully it never became physical. I always wonder how different my school experience would have been if I had been accepted by my peers.

    I'm glad their are parents and educators out there like you who care.

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    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I am sorry you had to endure such treatment by your peers. I am glad you turned out to be a great adult even though you were bullied. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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  7. Nicole:

    Talking about bullying and provide examples how one combates it is imperative. To provide a safe environment is essential and to let the person know that is being bully there is a place for them to go is a great way of making them feel secure. My daughter was bullied in 3rd grade by the bully pushing her down on the playground, stealing her lunch money or lunch. It was absolutely horrible. It took many phone calls and in-person meetings with her teacher and administration for them to take notice and to do something about it. To this day the child that bullied Nicole is in and out of all sorts of trouble with drugs and alcohol. No surprises there.

    All the best,
    Donna
    www.thegoldenpathway.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Donna,

      So sorry your daughter had to go through this bad period with bullies. You did what you had to do. I wish all parents were like you. You can't let a bully think he or she will continue to get away with the bullying. I am glad you stopped by to share, thanks so much.

      Nicole

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  8. I'm sorry your daughter had her friends shut her out because she decided not to drink. I was the same in high school, and none of my friends seemed to mind (this was back in the 70s, too, and I just said "No thanks." Maybe it was a more tolerant time).

    What bothers me about bullying is that anyone can do it, and yet we talk about bullies as if they were born that way and can never be any different. I don't believe that (for most people, some people just don't care about other people and nothing will change them).

    Bullying bullies only perpetuates the problem (bullies often bully so they don't appear as powerless as they feel, sadly). I like your idea of setting clear rules and boundaries for everyone in your classroom; that way you aren't labeling any one person, just a particular action or reaction. I wish more teachers and parents would do the same.

    I tried to teach my children to look past surface things and find empathy for others instead of anger and annoyance when things didn't go as they planned.

    The best time to teach people to respect boundaries (others and their own, as your daughter did) is in their formative years. Start early, model what you teach, and never give up on them.

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    1. Yep! formative years is so important to teach kids what is wrong and right. Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids who are raising themselves. It pains me greatly , that it took a major tragedy like Columbine before school started taking drastic measures to make sure kids are safe within the school building. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Nicole

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  9. Hi Nicole,
    As a parent I appreciate how pervasive bullying is. I saw it at first hand as a teacher and know it's still going on at all levels. I hope and pray more is done to address this so that fewer children will suffer. At my daughter's elem. school they had trained student "mediators" to help kids with conflict management. But I suspect many bullies still got away with intimidation and harassment.

    Blessings,
    Penelope Anne Cole

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  10. Hi Penelope,

    Bullies will always be around, the only thing we can do is to stay alerted and keep a watchful eye. This in my opinion is the best thing we can do. Schools should also do their and they don't it becomes the responsibility of the parent even if the authorities have to be notified. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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  11. Thanks for helping raise awareness of the problem and reminding us that it is not limited to the grade school playground. My son was miserable his first year of middle school due to a bully who pretended to be "friendly" to everyone at lunch. It took months for him to admit it to me. I emailed his teacher and she assigned seats and lunch and the problem got resolved. I'm so grateful that she recognized this nontraditional form of bullying and took prompt action

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  12. Thanks for stopping by Kate. I am so happy the problem got resolved. Unfortunately, a lot of kids are afraid to speak up and this is how a bully continues to get away with making someone's life miserable.

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  13. I didn't know about Bully Awareness Week. Thank you for informing us. Bullying is HORRIBLE--it has been around forever but it seems to be so much worse now with technology,especially. Thanks again!

    http://margodill.com/blog/

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  14. Thank you, Nicole, for your ongoing efforts to raise awareness of these issues AND to provide solutions for all those involved! The example you gave of your daughter facing peer pressure for doing what was right was an outstanding example of some of the subtler forms of bullying (ie, something we might not normally apply that label too). I'm sure she will forever appreciate your efforts not only to make your classroom safe but to apply those lessons in your home and her life as well!

    Ramona
    http://create-with-joy.com

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