I know there have been many articles on bullying in this paper and others, and perhaps the issue seems covered-to-death, but now I want to weigh in...
I was recently lucky enough to work with St. Anne’s sixth grade class in putting together the annual “Kids Chronicle” for the Wabasso Standard. This year the kids worked on moving beyond interviewing their teachers and wrote some interesting pieces on issues that affect them as children.
One of those endeavors was an article and a survey on bullying. I know there have been many articles on bullying in this paper and others, and perhaps the issue seems covered-to-death. Now I want to weigh in. This summer my children were bullied to such extremes that the police got involved.
There were children showing up at my house with bikes, goading my son to come outside to fight, there were kids who tried to jump him at the park and there was an exchange of SnapChat and Instagram slanders so horrible that you would be censored if you attempted to repeat them on network TV. At the time, I didn’t know too many people here in Redwood Falls to help me out, and I was at a loss.
Here I was, having moved halfway across the country to give my children a better life, and they were being terrorized.
So I told the neighborhood parents, I posted a blog that contained screenshots of all the back and forth between the children. My husband filed a complaint with the police.
We even tried to get a restraining order but were denied. Minnesota has laws that children younger than 12 can’t be held criminally responsible for their actions.
These children knew this law and would text me, “ha ha…there is nothing you can do to stop us.”
I bring this up because the survey the St. Anne’s kids compiled, and had third, fourth and fifth grade students answer, contained a question, “What would you do if you saw someone being bullied?”
All the responses were some variation of, “Tell an adult.”
The reality, however, is that I don’t know that the adults know what to do either. There are some levels of bullying that seem criminal and there is nothing legally the cops can do. They calmed me down, they were kind, they said they would do what they could, but their hands are tied.
For the more mundane types of bullying – the teasing, the soul-crushing making-fun-of – a teacher or other can say “stop it.” They can talk to the parents. They can try to be everywhere all at once, but it’s not like you can expel or suspend a kid for being mean.
Most kids, at some point during the day, when they reach a certain age, are mean. My children come home at least once or twice a month broken and hurt because of the mean things kids say.
It sucks; it doubly sucks for kids who have moved away from their lifetime friends to this strange new small town.
Here is what I learned over the summer on how to deal with bullying.
• Be the squeaky wheel. In a small town its hard to be assertive and out spoken be-cause it can feel like everyone is watching.
The annoying parents who show up, call the police, file complaints and start blogs get results.
• Teach your kids to find value in their own strengths and not how others see them.
This is easier said than done, and it requires constant reinforcement.
• Teach your children to be compassionate. We later saw one of the children who had spearheaded the bullying effort at a community family-style event all by herself.
It was heartbreaking. I pointed out to my children that when we hurt inside, we want to lash out and hurt others.
This was a reminder to them that bad behavior is about the person behaving that way, not about the person on the receiving end of the meanness.
• Teach your children assertive communication skills.
This is hard, because even a lot of adults have a rough time with assertive communication.
I lost my temper in a big way during the summer fiasco.
However, the calm and rational mind wins in the end. State facts, not feelings.
• Have a sense of humor. At the end of the day, I think we all must learn to laugh at the hard things in life.
Laughter tells us we’re not alone, it helps us with feelings that seem too big shrink a little smaller.