Bullying is something that everyone can relate to. In this day and age with all of the access kids have on the internet, smart phones and through text messages, bullying is taken to a whole new extreme. This week, the Merrick Mom Council tackles the subject of bullying and how they hope that their children will deal with adversity.
As a teacher and a parent, this topic is always on my mind, as I have to look out for signs and listen to my students and my children. If one of my children came to me and told me that they were being bullied in school, the playground or anywhere else, I would ask them to give me examples, what was said and what was done. It is important, to find out this information, as sometimes children say they are being bullied when it fact, some kids are just being mean spirited by saying things like “I am not your friend.”
Once I have cleared up the situation, I will look out for it again the next time. I will tell my children not to wait to tell the teacher or myself about the incident, but to say something as soon as it happens.
Once another bullying incident has happened, I will contact the school, the teacher, principal, social worker and the other child’s parent for a meeting. In this meeting, I will also record everything that is being said, and before walking out, let it be known that if my child is bullied again, legal action may be explored. I would also request that the solution that we discussed in the meeting be put into writing, and be signed by all parties involved.
If my child was the one who was being the one who was bullying other children, I would ask him or her why they feel it necessary to make someone else feel small and scared. I would make my child write a letter to the child, their parent and the school. I also will put my child into some sort of therapy and out of school physical activity for them to get out the anger or aggression that they may be feeling. If I, or the rest of my family, needed to go into a therapy session with them, I also would make sure to do it. I would also monitor my child’s interactions with the teachers and other students in the school and class, to make sure that we are making good progress, and then re-evaluate what is being done at home and school.
Since my children are young, I have not encountered this problem yet and I hope that I never will. In the meantime I have been reading books to my children that involve a bully (on a very elementary level and appropriate for a four year old). One book that we read often is called Billy Bully by Alvaro and Ana Galan. I hope that this may help to explain to them at an early age that bullying is wrong. I also think it is important to keep an open dialogue with your children so that they feel comfortable coming to you if they were ever being bullied.
I think that bullying has changed forms during the last few years with more and more cyber bullying occurring. Keeping “cyber”-tabs on your children is very important and very difficult. How much access my children have to the Internet and cell phone use, as they get older, is something that my husband and I need to discuss in order to better protect them.
Bullying is not a joke, whether your child is four or fourteen. Bullying scars and can be physically as well as emotionally painful for anyone, of any age. I could discuss this for hours, especially since I was a pledge mom and president of a sorority in college and now work for a non-profit focused on providing mentors to children, I have seen bullying from many angles.
The federal government sent a letter to all schools across the country late last year alerting them that if their current policies on bullying and harassment are not up to current standards, they could be found in non-compliance regarding the first amendment.
As parents, we must take the first stand before bullying ever even reaches school doors. We cannot ever be too timid. We must teach our children, from the start, to respect themselves, respect all others, and that they are incredible people who can truly lead by example.
My brother was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Autism at just two years of age. My parents raised the three of us the same way – and taught the three of us to respect all others from the start. My brother wasn't “different” nor was he “handicapped” in our household. For my siblings as well as my cousins, we grew up understanding that all are different and incredible in their own ways, and it was up to us as individuals to make ourselves shine.
While my children are young, we strive to instill in them an appreciation, understanding and respect for all life. When they ask questions, we answer them with the truth. If we see something that isn't acceptable towards another, we talk about it – calmly. I realized early on that if I raise my voice, I am defeating the purpose of showing them how to act to others.
When I was in fifth grade at Camp Avenue Elementary, I had an incredible teacher, Mrs. Prusan. I vividly recall one afternoon calling someone a name. Now, I was not the type to ever say anything negative to/about anyone, I do not know, to this day, why I 'tried it out'. Mrs. Prusan immediately requested that I meet her in the hallway, and her words will forever be with me.
"Jamessina. You do not need to ever say something negative about someone else. You are better than that. You are stronger than that. Negative words and name calling do not make you bigger, they make you smaller. Show that young man that he, too, is important and strong, and apologize for your error," she said.
And I apologized. And it stuck with me forever. My parents laid the groundwork, however, my teacher was there to ensure that I followed their words. Bullying does not ever need to be a problem. It does take a village, so let's all ensure every child feel safe and not be bullied as well as every child feel special enough that they do not need to ever bully another.
Next week, the Merrick Mom Council will discuss some of their best practices for travel with children.