Enough is Enough: A Commentary on Bullying

Bullying

I am absolutely outraged and fed up!  I sat here and watched the entire video of the students that tormented Karen Klein, the bus monitor from New York. To be witness to such horrific bullying evokes an incredible rage and sadness within me.  There has been an incredible outpouring of support for Karen and thousands of retaliatory threats towards those students who did the bullying. What upsets me the most is that this brutal incidence of bullying has, is currently, and will continue to happen in our own schools, sports teams and community and is not being addressed at the core of the issue.  Bullying is happening on a daily basis, right under our noses, with very little outpouring of support for those victims.   

How long can I just sit here and simply rant and rave in my blogs on www.kiwicommons.com?  How many more requests can I make to the school board asking that I be given the opportunity to share my professional and experiential strategies and ideas about how we can better handle the bullying issue at its core?  How many more events and educational presentations can I attend as a representative of the York Region Anti Bullying Coalition?  How many more times do I have to witness bullying and intervene on my own while others suggest that I mind my own business because I’m only a “casual” Educational Assistant and it’s not my job?  How many more children have to commit suicide before someone actual stands up and takes personal responsibility for his/her choices and the part he/she plays rather than just jumping on the bandwagon and making a bunch of noise?

People, it’s time to open your eyes!  Media, Politicians, Government, Superintendents, Principals, Teachers, Educators, Parents and Students alike – take action!  Take responsibility for your part or continue to be a part of the problem.  Say NO to more committees and band-aid solutions.  Stand up and expose the truth rather than sit back and watch it get swept under another carpet.  There is a thick, horrible haze of denial and lack of accountability surrounding this issue and it’s time for real, concrete and effective action.  If you choose to stay silent, turn your head away and not get involved then you are choosing (yes, choosing) to be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Parents start a revolt because their child came home and shared with them that they had a presentation at school and met a young lady who was a “cutter”, who actually self-mutilated to cope.  They go stomping into the principal’s office because their child is asking them difficult questions about suicide after a school assembly.  As parents, we tend to feel justified when we go on a self-righteous rant about what our kids should and shouldn’t be learning at school.  We start a petition against certain topics that the school wants to bring to the surface because we don’t feel that it is the school’s responsibility to talk about them.  When it comes to the rapidly increasing issue of bullying, it is everyone’s responsibility. Don’t you think its time to get that discussion started?

Here’s an interesting statistic – 85% of bullying incidences have an audience of the victim’s peers.  Think about it.  This means that in the majority of bullying situations there are witnesses just standing around and watching while another child is victimized.  Maybe your child isn’t being bullied.  Maybe your child isn’t a bully.  However, statistics show that the chances that your child is one of the ones standing around and watching it happen is quite high.

Most bullying incidences are not publicized on YouTube like the “bus monitor” video.  In fact, most bullying incidences go unnoticed and are never brought out in the open due to the victim’s fears and insecurities.  Whether we like it or not, we are failing our children.  Bullying is not the main issue here.  Bullying is merely a symptom of something that goes so much deeper.  Today’s kids are hurting.  It is up to us, the parents, the educators, the caregivers, and the school system to encourage an environment that allows them to be vulnerable and share their issues or concerns. We need to ensure that our children are safe to do so.  It’s up to us to make a real “heart to heart’ connection that empowers our children and youth to be honest with themselves, show respect for self and others, and be accountable for their own thoughts and actions.  The best way to start this process is by example.  People in positions of authority, like parents and teachers, should demonstrate their own vulnerability, humility and respect for others. As Ghandi put it so nicely, we should “be the change we want to see in the world.” Words without actions are meaningless and ineffective.

We all love to lash out at how ineffective and useless our government has proved themselves to be, on many issues. The government can’t help us with this issue. The only thing they can possibly do is provide funding, otherwise, they will just create yet another committee or another piece of legislation that will take way too long to come up with and spend way too much money discussing it around a big mahogany table.

Bullying affects so many of us on so many levels. Most effects of bullying cannot be seen.  Nor are they verbalized, discussed or even addressed. However, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among our teens, isn’t it time we bring the real topics to the surface?

We are demonstrating the very behaviour we are attempting to curb by pointing fingers, deflecting accountability, lashing out in outrage, bullying the bullies with words and threats and forming “groups” with hopes that ours will scream the loudest. Today’s society, myself included, has such a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement that our kids have no choice but to mimic what they live and experience on a daily basis. In general, we are a selfish, self-absorbed bunch of arrogant people who seek immediate gratification, no matter what the cost.

I suggest we swallow our pride and get really honest with ourselves and our kids.Taking the risk that our own insecurities may be exposed is a small sacrifice to make to help encourage our children to get to the “heart” of the matter and take themselves on with honesty and integrity. Believing that all is well in the hearts and minds of our children today is just another avoidance tactic and excuse to not take action, due to our own fears and insecurities. How can we empower our children if we are afraid to go to the “front line” with them? In most cases, this is an unconscious decision that stems from our own personal fears and belief systems. I’m sure all parents want only the best for their children but its a matter of stepping outside of ourselves and being open to learning exactly what empowering our children looks like.

Bullying is a symptom of a much bigger issue.  The heart of the matter lies within our basic human need for love and acceptance.  A child’s self-esteem or the way they feel and think about themselves will clearly be reflected in their behaviours and the things they say and do.  The personal belief systems and stories that our kids have been telling themselves throughout their young lives, are based on every experience they’ve had from the time they were very little.  The lies that they have been telling themselves over and over in their minds prevent them from maintaining a healthy self-confidence and reaching their full potential.  A child’s personal perception of every past experience, if  perceived negatively, can forever hold them hostage from living their hopes and dreams and being a happy and emotionally healthy individual.

I would like to give you insight as to some of the thoughts and feelings our children and youth are experiencing and not always sharing. This information was compiled from a past Child & Youth Leadership program I facilitated.

The following are some personal statements that were made during a component in which teens aged 13 – 19 were discovering and exploring some of the negative beliefs they had about themselves:

  • I hate myself.
  • I wish I wasn’t such a geek.
  • I’m too fat.
  • I hate how I look.
  • My laugh is stupid.
  • I’m not good at much.
  • I hate being alone.
  • It’s all about my boobs.
  • I’m tired of feeling like I have to act like someone I’m not just for others to like me.
  • I suck at almost everything.
  • I’m so awkward.
  • If it wasn’t for my cat, I would have killed myself by now.
  • I feel like, if I don’t have sex with him, he won’t believe that I love him or something.
  • No one understands me.
  • Are you kidding?  If my dad knew I smoked weed, he’d beat the heck outa me.
  • I always have to lie to my parents because otherwise they just yell at me.
  • My parents don’t even know me, let alone like me.
  • I want people to like me.
  • I can’t even talk to my parents.
  • I just can’t do anything right.
  • I’ve been thinking of taking a razor blade to these zits on my face.
  • I can’t afford some of the clothes they wear.
  • I sometimes feel like I hate everyone.
  • I just want to see what it really feels like to really be loved.

The following are some personal statements that were made during a component in which kids aged 8 – 12 were discovering and exploring some of the negative beliefs they had about themselves:

  • I always have to play outside at recess by myself because no one really likes me.
  • I wish I was in heaven. There’s lots of love there.
  • I think if I didn’t talk funny, people would play with me more.
  • I have a real anger problem, so the nice kids stay away from me.
  • I think I’m a bully but I just want them to let me play four square with them.
  • If they don’t like me, I’ll just push them and punch them.
  • My parents never smile.
  • I cry at night sometimes because I hate recess time.
  • What is a “packy” anyways?
  • I like how these kids here are liking me.

So, I would like to encourage you to start that conversation.  It’s amazing how you can build up trust by simply sharing your own age-appropriate fears and personal stories with your kids. Through your disclosure and vulnerability, and with absence of any judgement, you can make amazing connections to the hearts of your children.

Image source: National Post