Monday, February 4, 2008

Bullying, and a Bit of Self-Disclosure

Judy Gregerson posted a great link on her BLOG to about bullying.

These are some of the things they suggest you tell your children:

"If they see someone else being bullied they should always try to stop it. If they do nothing, they're saying that bullying is okay with them.

"The best way to help is probably to tell an adult. It's always best to treat others the way they would like to be treated.

"Show the bully that they think what they're doing is stupid and mean. Help the person being bullied to tell an adult they can trust."

For those of you who work in the school systems...are these some of the things kids are taught right off the bat?
I hope so. I hope it's ingrained in them from pre-school on.

I have to admit, I've been on both ends of the bullying spectrum. Growing up, we were taught in Sunday School to be kind to others--but the actual "bullying" issue was never addressed by name. It was never addressed in school, either. Bullying was rampant and little, if anything, was ever done about it.

This is embarrassing to admit: But when I was in 3rd grade or so, there was another girl in my class, Sharon, who was very heavy. Other kids made fun of her. Once, I joined in.

I made her cry. And I felt horrible--I deserved to feel horrible--and I never did it again.

I felt guilty about it for years. Yes, I carry baggage around forever. :) Even though I moved to a different school the following year and never saw Sharon again, I never forgot the look on her face when I called her "fat."

What goes around comes around. In 8th grade it was my turn. And trust me--not that ALL of you don't already know this--junior high school kids are a helluva of lot meaner than third graders. Girls who had been my best friends in 7th grade suddenly turned against me in 8th. Although it was never physical (except for one close call) they made my life holy hell for the next 2 years. Even now, decades later, I look back on this as one of the most disturbing experiences in my life.

Did *I* tell anyone? Well, one teacher called me up after class and asked was everything was okay. Was I haveing any problem with anyone? Was there something I wanted to talk about?

To this day I'm grateful she noticed, and took the time to reach out. But all I did was stand there and shake my head. The last thing I wanted was to be known as a ratfink (yeah, that was the word of the day). I denied it all. She sighed and let me leave.

I did tell my parents who gave me the standard advice; "Just ignore them and they'll leave you alone." Yeah, riiight. But that's exactly what I did. I was the epitome of self-control. As far I was concerned, those girls didn't exist.

Did it work? Nope. Although I refused to respond to anything they said, ignoring their behavior didn't stop the bullying. It didn't make them go away and leave me alone. It didn't make them respect me. It just went on and on and on and on throughout the rest of 8th grade and pretty much through 9th.

By 10th grade these girls lost interest in me. In fact, one of them and I kind of "made up" in high school though we were never as close as we'd once been. And we never discussed what happened! Talk about "denial" in its purest form.

What I got out of this experience was a greater appreciation for the feelings of others. I'm aware of it all the time, always wondering how my words will affect others. This is mostly good because I do go out of my way to treat others with respect. It can also be bad, because at times I hold back on my own feelings because I'm afraid of coming across as a "bully"--even when dealing with idiots who seriously need to be "told off" (no, I don't mean my patients, lol, I mean other people in general--and I hope nothing I write in this blog ever offends anyone to the point of no return). I think I'm very attuned to people's emotions. Sometimes too attuned.

With my own kids, I made it a point to teach them right from the start to NOT gang up on other kids. To my knowledge they never did. But I have to admit I never thought to tell them what they should do if they noticed it happening to someone else. It's not enough to simply not join in. But I can also see how some children might be afraid to take a stand out of fear that these bullies might turn on them as well.

What are your thoughts? Do your children come to you, as teachers or even parents, to let you know one of their peers is being bullied? How do you handle it? What advice do you give?

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