robinellen (robinellen) wrote,

Middling on bullying...

Our school, like many (maybe most?) schools, has bullying issues. We're fortunate, I think, because the issues aren't that bad -- most of the time. But lately, there have been some increasingly difficult boys (and girls) in the 5th grade, D's grade. It's gotten bad enough that our principal has sent out a letter asking 5th grade parents to volunteer their time to supervise recess and lunch for this group of kiddos.

I wish the district had a way to *insist* parents get involved. I wish we could tell the parents of the kids who were consistently a part of this bullying mess that they *have* to come in -- in fact, if I were the queen (ha), I would tell them that their kiddos would have to skip recess unless the parents were willing to come and supervise. Of course, other parents would also have to be present, because a big part of the problem is the parents, themselves.

For example, one of the moms refused to allow her daughter to be disciplined (by the school) for a recent incident because 'her daughter wouldn't do that.' Sadly, her daughter not only would did that, but she was probably the instigator. I've personally witnessed her daughter 'doing that' numerous times -- and her daughter has some serious issues. Many (maybe all?) of those issues stem from the fact that her parents don't see her for who she really is. Therefore, when they claim to love and support her, they're not really doing so -- they're loving and supporting a fantasy. And the girl is bright enough to know that, at least on some level. I could see this girl's behavior getting worse and worse as she desperately tries to get her parents to see her real self...*sigh*.

If I was queen, the victims' parents would also need to be involved. If D was one of those being bullied, you can bet I'd be there every single day, watching to see how he interacts with his peers. If parents don't truly know what's happening, how can they help? There are times when the victims have few choices -- but often, if the victims learn young how to respond to bullying, the bullies will leave them alone. Bullies want power, and if they can't get that from the kids around them, 9 times out of 10, they move on.

I have been both a bully and a victim -- and a 'bully breaker,' as they call them these days. When I was in 5th grade, I was shunned by my peers. If I sat down at a table, even if the teacher assigned me there, the other girls would get up and move. If they couldn't move tables, they'd sit as far from me as they could. They wouldn't talk to me, and if we were supposed to work together, they'd pretend they couldn't hear me. They tried to trip me in the halls; they pushed me into walls (oh, a rhyme, ha). And I let them. I let them for almost an entire school year. I let them slowly steal my self-confidence, my belief in my own self-worth.

Then a couple things happened. First, we moved into 6th grade. This made a difference mostly because the kids who had started the bullying were a couple of boys in the grade above me. Their influence was now gone, and perhaps that made me braver (my memory is a little fuzzy, in all honesty -- I blocked 5th grade from my mind). Anyway, the girls still tried to oust me, but for some reason, I stopped letting them. If they pushed me, I pushed back. Before they could move away from me, I moved away from them. When we were assigned projects together, I did my part and let them flounder. Slowly, the behavior on their part stopped. I wasn't really a part of the group (our class only had 12 kids -- 6 girls and 6 boys), but I was no longer being forced outside, either.

Then, we got a couple of new kids, one boy and one girl. And here's where I turned into a bully. :( The girl was big (taller and heavier) than the rest of us. Up to that point, I'd been the tallest girl in class (um, almost in the whole school). This girl stood out even more, though. And the rest of the class turned their attention to the new kids. The boy was on the small side, as luck would have it, and he was teased for being small. He also, poor kid, got lice at some point -- and he was brutally teased for that. I didn't join in...but when their ire turned to the girl, I did. I said some very cruel things to her -- and I was immediately ashamed. A couple days later, she threw me into a brick wall, and honestly, I was relieved. I felt like I got exactly what I deserved. Unfortunately, she was expelled for the incident (all the girls in the class witnessed it). It's not that I think she should have used violence to solve her problem -- what bothered me was that I had instigated her frustration and hurt. I had bullied her, and when she retaliated, she ended up the overall loser. I did try to tell the principal all that, by the way. He was very nice about it (I'm not sure he believed me, actually -- I was known as a 'nice' girl), and he said that the wall-throwing incident wasn't the only reason for her expulsion.

From that point on, I tried to be the bully breaker. I didn't let people bully me. I had a couple girls in junior high attempt it (one even tried to fight me, but back then, it was the whole 'I choose you' crap, and I simply didn't appear at the appointed time and place). They mostly used words and small physical things, but I ignored both. One of them shot tiki darts at me, and when I kept all her darts, that was the end of that (I just pulled them out and kept them). I also went out of my way with the second (the tiki dart girl) to be nice. I told her she looked good in certain colors, I smiled at her in the halls -- things like that. She sneered usually, but after a few weeks, she simply left me alone.

By the time we were in 9th grade, no one tried to bully me. At all. At our ten-year reunion, I had people come up and tell me that they admired my strength back then. "We couldn't tease you about stuff, because you were fine with who you were." I don't know if that was true or not, but I had gotten to the point where I wasn't about to let the popular kids make my life difficult. I didn't care that I wasn't popular -- I didn't even like those kids. And I definitely didn't let them talk down to me or use their words against me. In some ways, my tongue was too sharp...but in others, it was a great shield.

So when I see these things happening in my kiddos' school, I want to do something. I want to talk to the students (one on one), and I want to talk to the parents. The parents could make such a huge difference -- both those of the bullies and those of the victims. D's class isn't a part of it right now because they've learned how to stand up for one another. As a whole class, they stand united before the kids who try and bully them, and they let them know it won't work. Yes, there are isolated instances, but for the most part, they're left alone.

I've talked to both my kiddos about how to respond to bullies. I tell them the most important things are 1)if you think there's any kind of physical danger, get an adult; and 2) don't engage them. Period. Either ignore them or make it abundantly clear that you couldn't care less about their opinion of you. Don't give them the attention and power they seek -- instead, walk away (either emotionally or physically). So far, D has no problem with that. He'll stand up for his friends, and he doesn't draw the attention of the bullies. E is the one who concerns me more. Her grade is the other trouble area at the school, and although she's not been involved, she cares more about what her peers think of her than D does.

One day at a time, I know. :) How about you? Were you bullied? Do you know kids who deal with it today? Did you ever find yourself in the position of bully?
Tags: kid worry, school stuff

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