Throughout my entire life, I was bullied in some way or another. I took a few punches in my day, swallowed some horrible insults, been teased and laughed at, and was excluded from so many opportunities. As a young girl, the advise I received to deal with the bullying was to “just walk away”. So I tried to avoid the bullies as much as I could. It was scary running for my life every day. And although trying to avoid the bullies didn’t always keep me from being bullied, I somehow got through it. There was no support system for victims of bullying. There was no program set in place. Back then, people considered being bullied as “building character”.
Nowadays, awareness of bullying is everywhere. There are support groups and programs where victims can turn to for help. Schools support a “No tolerance” approach to bullying, but how much good is actually being accomplished by all of this? “No Tolerance” in the schools seems more like a turned cheek than awareness. The severity of bullying cases has increased over the years to the breaking point of it being out right abuse! It has pushed so many youth to suicide because they feel there is no way to escape the horror. Simple awareness hasn’t brought enough solutions, or the proper help needed for individuals suffering from bullying to benefit from.
I know many parents who have reached out for help to school officials to address the bullying issue their child was suffering from in their school system and gotten absolutely no where. And it is so interesting how teachers who are aware of the issue, continually see nothing, yet the child keeps coming home in fear and covered in bruises. My daughter experienced issues where she was being excluded from group assignments by some of the girls in her class. This jeopardized my daughters grades since she was unable to complete in class projects, and the teacher claiming my daughter wasn’t working well with others. I addressed the issue with the teacher more than 3x and with the principal, and nothing was ever done about it. Thank goodness, that teacher had enough complaints against her and she no longer worked at that school the following year. Even as parents step in to get help for their child, it can lead to a dead end.
So what do we do as adults, when we are being bullied? Is it really bullying or is it abuse? This question has popped up in my mind over and over again. In almost every case I have ever come across, when an adult is suffering from “bullying” it is never called bullying. It is called harassment or abuse. We can get the police involved, a peace bond can be filed against another and even arrest. But for children, it remains as bullying and it rarely gets resolved.
What can we do about it?
First of all, in your own home, build in your child a strong sense of self. Teach them not to compare themselves to others. Everyone’s journey is their own to lead, and not for someone else to determine. Guide them to embrace their differences, stand tall in their beliefs and have faith. That is the foundation to living a full life.
Second, teach your child to see the good in people, but never ignore their ugly side. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, however, recognize that all things may not be what they seem.
Thirdly, integrity is the face of value and being true. As long as you hold your integrity, even if everyone stands against you, it’s power will speak volumes, and you’ll maybe even earn respect.
Lastly, give your child the skills to stand up for themselves. Verbally, Emotionally, and Physically! Yes, the skills, the tools, the know how to defend themselves in the face of confrontation. There are ways to maintain integrity and still kick a little butt now and again. A physical self defense class, joining a debate club, counseling and empowerment classes can help give children the confidence to keep their ground in a conflict.
And one thing to add, keep the lines of communication open with your child so they will feel comfortable to come to you when they need to. All of this can be applied directly to yourself, as well. You too, can protect yourself from the damaging effects of bullying, harassment and abuse. Take control of what you can control.
My son has had to deal with bullying over the years. His disability seems to be an open door for others to step in and take advantage. The majority of my son’s youth, he was supported by an adult at all times, to keep him protected and safe. As he’s gotten older, he has gained a little more independence where he can ride the school bus on his own to school. But on that school bus, there has arose many incidences where I needed to address the misconduct towards my son. Fortunately, an old work colleague of mine’s daughter rode that bus and made me aware of the bullying. And so I was able to approach the principal of my son’s school who was wonderful to work with, understanding and proactive with addressing things. Action was taken and my son remained safe.
However, I had a secondary plan in place if my son was going to be continually harassed on the bus. Plan B was to remove my son from the bus, put him on the special needs bus or I drive him to school myself. My recommendation is to have a worker guide your child at all times, if they are special needs. Someone who can protect your child, or set up a system where someone is always on the look out to report incidences. And always have a Plan B for protecting your child. If you are getting nowhere with dealing in the appropriate channels, then take action yourself for your child. Remove them from the situation, find another way. This doesn’t mean telling your child to “just walk away”, it means for you to step in. I know a couple of parents who removed their child from one school and placed them in a different school, just to escape the bullying. Both children are now thriving in their new environments. And never hesitate to call the police in a matter.
Information and knowledge is a powerful tool, learn all there is to know so that you can protect your child, and yourself from bullying, harassment and abuse. Regardless of how you decide to handle the issue of bullying for your child or yourself, the ultimate goal is to be freed from it, and live a happy, healthy life.