“Actually time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” -Martin Luther King
When I was in JR High I rode the bus to school. Every day there was this boy from my neighborhood that would bully this girl from my neighborhood. The rest of us would most of the time just sit in silence and listen to the cruel mean remarks. I felt bad for the girl but I wasn’t going to say anything, I was worried that the bully would turn his attention on me. After all I wasn’t that popular or cool either. Now when I look back though I wish I would have said something, at least told him to knock it off. A whole bus full of kids and not one person said a thing, even though that girl was often holding back tears by the end of the ride. This is a common situation and is probably happening in your child’s school. How can we make our kids feel strong enough to stand up to a bully? I have no idea if bullying has become worse since I was in high school or is about the same. I do know that in groups and meeting with kids individually it is an issue that comes up over and over again. Often times bullying is an important puzzle piece to understanding why a teen is depressed or why they are refusing to go to school.
Consider this story written by a teen girl at youth services:
“I never bullied anyone but I have been bullied a lot, it was actually yesterday some girl told me that I should put a bag over my head because it looks like I have lice in my hair, my teeth look like I eat butter, I have maggots crawling in my mouth and I dress like a homeless person. I was speechless after I read this note that she wrote. Bullying is a problem for girls because they get judged on what they look like, how they dress and their weight and body type, or how tall or short they are. That’s why I don’t bully because I know what it feels like to be bullied. I’ve been there and I am never going to do it because it’s cruel, mean and straight up not fun at all. When I see someone getting bullied I want to be like hey knock it off, leave the kid alone. She/he may be having problems outside of school that are being made worse. Don’t judge someone from what you see on the outside, they could be struggling inside.”
Children learn from their peers and their behavior and often get the message to just be complacent about bullying. Sometimes parents are giving the message to their children that they need to be tough and mean to stand up for themselves, which creates more bullying behavior. Consider instead talking to your children about empathy and role play with them the best ways to react to a bully, whether they are the victim or the victim is someone else.
Here are some interesting articles on standing up to a bully: