I need to take a moment to talk about something that all school kids deal with. Bullies. I was a fortunate nobody when I was in school. I had friends but, I wasn’t very “popular.” I was known enough to not be “one of those kids” … You know, the ones that are labeled as weird or whatever it is that makes them stand out as different. I was a happy someone that was no one. I blended in, never got bullied and generally enjoyed school.
This is not the case with many kids. I grew up with the knowledge that kids can be cruel. I have a name that can be shortened, nicknames and so on. Believe me, even with the best of intentions, kids can and will find a way to tease you, mock you, or just harass you. On one hand, it goes with being a kid and growing up. On the other hand, it often goes too far; turning nasty and causing problems. Have kids always been this mean but it was shrugged off more? Is it different today?
Things change constantly. Entertainment choices change, technology changes, parenting advice and opinions change, likes and dislikes are constantly in flux. However, one thing that seems to be a constant right now, is bullying.
Have we, as a generation, caused the bullying to become more intense or aggressive because our children need more attention from us? It’s harder to make a living, more and more often both parents are working, electronics are always on and in our faces and our kids’ faces. Perhaps they don’t know how to ask for positive attention so they act out. It may not be positive attention but, at least, now we’re paying attention to them.
Our local school has a firm policy of No Bullying, as does just about every school, anywhere. Our school handbook states:
“‘Harassment, intimidation or bullying’ means any intentionally written message or image — including those that are electronically transmitted — verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, mental or physical disability or other distinguishing characteristics, when an act:
A. Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property;
B. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education;
C. Is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or
D. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.”
Okay, seems basic enough. No tolerance. What gets to me is that it happens anyway. We, as a family, adhere to a strong moral code. We try to train our children to be polite and respectful. We try to instill “old fashioned values;” saying please and thank you, holding doors open for people, working for the things you want, etc. We try very hard to set positive examples so that our boys learn this.
Seems like it should be simple but it’s not. When you have a quirky kid, you have to work extra hard to make sure that they are aware of their actions. Boys will be boys, but I can honestly say my boys make me proud in this regard. They can be oblivious one day and complete gentlemen the next. It takes extra work, but I think our boys are getting it down. Repetition is key.
So, I’ve done my part but, what happens when my children go out into the world, away from me? When they go to public school? They become targets to other children who may not have been shown the same code of conduct.
Dad was bullied in school to such an extent that his parents pulled him out and home-schooled him. It took him until he was an adult to make peace with it. Now, he’s been trying to teach our boys how to respond appropriately when they get bullied. That, kids don’t just become angry and mean all on their own; they have to learn that behavior from somewhere. Maybe they should be pitied instead. Still, it’s hard to avoid the visceral reaction you feel when pushed around or hearing about that happening to someone you love.
Today, is our home day. We don’t have any appointments or classes at the school for E. It’s a calm day inside and stormy outside. A great day to “hunker down” and have a quiet day. E loves these days. The rest of the week, he has at least one hour a day scheduled at the public school. Yesterday, he had a “class” that, to be honest, I can’t figure out what it’s for. He goes into this classroom and hangs out with peers of his intelligence level that are also quirky. I call it social skills. I don’t know if it is officially called the Special Ed classroom or what but, it’s the room where kids with learning differences can go when they need a break from the cookie-cutter curriculum of the average classroom. Because of his age, he really should be with different kids but, because of his academic level, they suggested a few older kids to socialize with. It will help his skills to be the younger one, rather than the older one in these groups.
When E was in Kindergarten, he was bullied a lot. At that point, we were unsure if he was really being bullied or if he was overreacting to situations because of his sensitivities. He was also undiagnosed at that time. Turns out, he really was bullied. Many times. Mostly physically and usually when teachers were not there to see it. A tough situation for any child; worse for a sensitive, quirky kid! In fact, it haunted him. He was anxious about going to school and fought against it constantly. The anxiety of that, combined with the sensory overload he was suffering with in the classroom, was really what started us down the path to home-school.
E and I have a close relationship. We talk and, when he is ready to open up about stuff, he does it in his own time. On previous occasions this school year, in this new, special class, he has told me that one or two kids have been mean to him. They have pushed him down. They’ve teased him and said mean things about his mom(!) Basically, anything they could think of to get him upset. This is a good combination of bullying and an over-reactive child, which spurs the bullies on. What got to me today, was that yesterday, one particular boy in that classroom told E the following, “You will die when you are 17 and I am going to kill you!” (Mouth drops open and I am speechless for a time. Then I got ticked off!)
Now, I don’t know the statistics of quirky kids bullying vs. being bullied but, I do know that quirky kids tend to get picked on more. That’s the way things work. Those that are different in some way, smarter or in some other way quirky get picked on. That is not news. It even happens in the animal kingdom.
What gets me is the violence behind those words. What on earth could ever cause a preteen child to speak with such anger in his thoughts. What is that poor child dealing with? Granted, the teacher was told, and it was dealt with but, I feel unsure of how to proceed. My quirky kid now has reservations about attending that class. He has already dealt with teasing and physical bullying by being pushed down multiple times. Now he has to deal with psychological bullying. How do I respond? I want him to continue his social skills development. I want him to learn to deal with this bully so that when he is an adult he can deal with the grown-up versions. It’s a sad fact but, he’ll need those skills. At what price though? Is this class a safe environment for him? He has nightmares nightly. Is this what he’s dreaming about? Is he being tormented in person and in his sleep? I hate that my baby has to face that kind of aggression and bullying in a “No Tolerance Zone.”
I cannot make the bullies of the world stop, but I can give my boys the proper tools to face these bullies and deal with it. I’ve linked a video below that is one of my favorites for using with my kids. It has such a beautifully easy way of explaining how to deal with bullies and not resorting to the same behavior. So, from my family to yours, I hope that, if you know of someone dealing with this situation, you can make use of this great video tool. I hope you can find a way to move forward from the situation and that it stops.
Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists
What if I’m Being Bullied?