I don't usually share a lot of things I read on Facebook; especially coming from those parent groups where most people just complain or gossip about this or that. However, I just read a post by a Middle School Parent from our town that hit home for not only my family, but for so many parents out there. Bullying needs to stop now. PERIOD.
I'm going to warn you that this is going to be a long post. It's not a rant or tirade about bullying, but more of a gentle message. I was conflicted whether or not I should even post this here on my blog; especially since I write about food. But I DO write about family and keeping my family safe is even more important to me than sharing memorable recipes. Besides, sharing this here with all of you will make more people aware of this problem, rather than my 400 personal "friends" on Facebook. ????
First, a little background. I live in the Highlands of New Jersey in a not so small town of approximately 28,000 people over 80 square miles. We have six elementary schools that range from K-6; then they all merge together for middle school in grades 7-8; then off to high school for grades 9-12. There are approximately 290 kids per graduating class. All from different socio economic backgrounds.
A Middle School Moms Plea About Bulling
"Hey moms. I want to share something with you regarding our daughters and mean girls/bullying. And I'm not posting this for suggestions on what to do, as it's not affecting me directly (at least, not today; as we know all too well, one day your child can be besties with someone and then the next day everything can change inexplicably, because adolescence).
I'm posting because I'm angry, but I'm also really, really sad. For those of us who have girls in the middle school, you should know that there are some girls who have said the most awful things to other girls. These things range from saying horrible things about how other girls look, to being cruel about what they're wearing, to the absolute worst: telling them that they should go kill themselves and that no one would miss them. I'm not talking about texting or social media here; this is being done in person, face to face.
Given the number of people in this group, there's a very good chance that your girl could be someone who's experienced one or more of these hateful verbal assaults - or even that it's your girl who's doing it, and maybe you have no idea because no one has spoken up yet. For some of these instances, I know that parents/caregivers, school, etc., have been notified, so again, no need to post how to handle it.
"I think parenting these days is definitely different from when a lot of people grew up. As much blame as we give a lot of our kids for what they're not doing... I also try to give them as much credit for dealing with things that we didn't have to deal with. Bullying was one on one and face to face. Now it's all over the Internet." ~Nelly
I also don't want to get into blaming or bashing parents/caregivers either, or naming names, or any of that nonsense. So please don't start demanding that stuff because you think everyone has a "right to know" - while I may agree with you, I myself don't know everything, and for any specifics I do happen to know, it's not my place to share them.
That's not what this post is about. What it IS about is awareness - simply letting you know that this very specific type of cruelty is out there and happening right now, and to encourage you to share that awareness with your kids.
We hear very often about our kids being picked on or bullied on the bus, in class, after school. That's sadly nothing new. Every year, there are new bullies and new torments. But for some reason, these specific events have my blood boiling over. Maybe it's because I myself have a daughter. Now she has certainly made silly mistakes when it comes to friends - as have all our kids, because they're still growing up and learning to navigate the difficulties of being social during the teen years.
I saw a very different side of her recently, when she learned about what one of these "mean girls" had said to a friend. My daughter turned into the proverbial mama bear; she wanted to find this other girl and throw her into a wall. Then, later that night at bedtime, she cried. She cried because she was terrified that her friend would take the mean girl's words to heart, and that her friend might possibly do something to herself as a result. And that broke my heart.
"I think everyone at school experiences some form of bullying. With kids at school, it can be anything - it can be your shoes or the wrong bag or anything. If you are big like I am, you are always going to be a target. So I decided at school to make myself an even bigger target, if you like: to make myself as big as I could be." ~James Corden
I have spent many hours over the years wondering why this happens. Why children do this. Where this hate comes from, and why it seems so much more vicious than what we experienced ourselves growing up. And mainly, how we can stop it. But honestly, I think I've recently moved past the point of stressing about that.
That's for better, smarter minds than mine to determine. Now, as I saw my daughter rise up to this intense desire to protect and defend her friend, I want to encourage you all to do the same; to empower your kids to rise up and be there for the kids who bear the brunt of the hate. To help the victims. To stand up for what's right.
I told my daughter to speak to the friends that she and her friend have in common. I said to her: you all care about each other. This is one of your own who is being targeted, and who is hurting. You guys be her shields. You stand beside her and you let her know that she matters, and that you all have her back.
As much as you can, you watch out for her. You let each other know who the bullies and the mean kids are, and you watch THEM. As much as you are able, (without disrupting anything in school, of course), you be her protectors. And if you happen to witness something, if you see your friend in trouble, you march right up to that mean kid and you get in their face and tell them that this s**t stops NOW.
"We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common - which is - we all want to be happy." ~Ellen DeGeneres
And you get your friend out of there and tell a teacher or staff member immediately. We may not be able to stop these girls, or any kids at all, from becoming mean kids or bullies. But we damn well sure can let the victims know that people DO care about them, and that they are not alone, and that they DO matter. And we can put these bullies on notice that this behavior is NOT acceptable, EVER, and that it will NOT be tolerated, by anyone.
We need to turn the discourse and change the expectations and environment so that those who are bullies and spread hate are the ones with the targets on their backs, so to speak, not the "easy marks" who get bullied. Make it so that bullies are NOT the norm. That kids would rather do ANYTHING than target another child and torment them, because they wouldn't want the backlash that comes with it. Because their community says that behavior is WRONG and will NOT be tolerated. Full stop.
Please moms, talk to your kids and encourage them to stand up to the children who have the audacity to tell others things like they should just die because they're so ugly and that no one would miss them if they were gone. I mean, dear God - this is almost becoming the norm these days, to hear that this is how some kids treat each other, and that is NOT OK. Not on my watch, anyway.
"I'm super grateful that there wasn't social media when I was a kid, but that sort of self-doubt crept in at a young age. It's bullying. It's the comments here and there, and maybe somebody says something to you that they don't even mean to be a mean-spirited comment, but they'll just kind of say it to you in passing." ~Amy Schumer
Encourage all children to embrace positivity, and to avoid the complainers and the haters. If your child seems angry, find out why. If their friend seems angry, talk to your child about it. Be proactive. Encourage them to band together in order to stand up for and protect one another. And yes, encourage your kids to get mad in the moment.
To be very much NOT OK with hate and cruelty and bullying. To not just stand by and watch. Not to hold a grudge, mind you, and not to get physical, and not to say hateful things themselves - just to be present in the moment, to be absolutely appalled at that type of behavior, because they SHOULD be, and most important, to help protect and defend those who need it.
And don't just talk about it once. Talk about it often with your kids. Know who your kid's friends are. Get to know their families. Learn as much about their friends as you can. And if something ever happens - if your child is bullied, or if your child did the bullying - talk to the other family or families affected. Don't just rely on the school to "handle" things.
Reach out and try your best to contain your anger, however justified it may be, and do your very best to work things out peacefully, together. All kids learn by example. Be the best example out there.
"When so-called child's play turns hostile, and a child becomes a victim, it is time to act. Victims of cyberbullying do not choose to participate. Rather than build character, bullying can cause children to become anxious, fearful, unhappy, and even cause them to be physically sick." ~Linda Sanchez
It's been said in the media that we're living in the "age of anger." (From the way that online discourse tends to implode these days, I sadly have to agree.) What we SHOULD be angry about, though, is that kids in our community are telling other kids to kill themselves.
We need to come together as a community to let these kids know that we, both adults and kids alike, will never accept that, not for one moment. I can promise you, if I ever witness a child telling another child something like that, you'll hear me yelling from across town.
I am making my stand here and now. I have told my daughter as well as her friends, both girls and boys alike, that if they ever experience anything like this while in our care to tell us right away, and that they can always count on us to be there for them.
That we care about them and their well-being. That we will defend them. And that we will never, ever support hate, bullying, intolerance, or cruelty in any shape or form. Maybe if we can take a more active role like this, we can start to make a difference, however small.
Maybe if we can get our kids to actively watch out for each other and protect one another on an ongoing basis rather than simply reacting, we'll put the bullies on notice. Maybe if the bullies hear it again and again and again and again from their peers - WE WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO DO THIS! - over and over and over, they'll start to think twice.
Maybe someday, if this became the norm, then the haters and bullies would start to fear US, rather than the other way around. And maybe, just maybe, things might start to change. But only if we take a firm stand together. We are much stronger together than we are apart. Remind your children of that. Together, we CAN stand up to hate and demand that it find another place to spend its time. Not here. Not ever. Not on our watch." ~D.B.
THANK YOU for putting to words what many parents feel about bullying and not just in our district, but worldwide. Be kind, it's really that simple.
My Personal Experience
Bullying happens not only with kids, but with adults as well.
We've had an instance where my daughter received a "subtle" message via one of those image quotes on social media from a parent of one of her "friends" about "betraying friendship".
We've had other students corner my daughter in school stairwells where there were no cameras threatening her life. The school did nothing and found the accusations unfounded.
We've had a school district employee physically attack my then 11 year old child and knock her to the ground. The school, Board of Ed and the state of NJ did nothing and found the accusations unfounded. The employee got to keep his job without any repercussions other than changing schools until my daughter left. Even with over 40 witnesses.
These examples are just a few of what my kids have experienced growing up. Is it right? No. Is it fair? No.
We live in a world where things like this get sensationalized and if you speak up, you're ostracized. It's that simple.
Instead, we dealt with the unfairness of it at home. We took them to therapy to help deal with the anger and betrayal. We loved, supported and raised them up when they said they wish they were dead or tried to self harm themselves. We focused their efforts on doing good and helping others rather than tearing others down or complaining about their misfortune.
Don't say "NOT MY CHILD", because you know what, it very well could be. My kids are no angels, trust me. They've said and done things that were inappropriate or rude to others, but I've never condoned that behavior. I've marched them up to that person and made them apologize in person, even to the point of their own embarrassment.
You know what, they learned and never did it again. In fact, both of my girls have stood up to others for their friends and even strangers when they were being bullied. For that, I'm, super proud of the confident women they're becoming. Because isn't that our job as parents, to raise our kids to be the best person that they can be?
Bullying Facts (U. S. National Statistics)
- 28% in grades 6–12 and 20% in grades 9–12 have experienced bullying
- Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others
- 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools
- 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more
- When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time
- 9% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying
- 15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year
- In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.
- The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Physical bullying happens less often. Cyberbullying happens the least frequently
- According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced these various types of bullying: name calling (44.2 %); teasing (43.3 %); spreading rumors or lies (36.3%); pushing or shoving (32.4%); hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2%); leaving out (28.5%); threatening (27.4%); stealing belongings (27.3%); sexual comments or gestures (23.7%); e-mail or blogging (9.9%)
- Most bullying takes place in school, outside on school grounds, and on the school bus. Bullying also happens wherever kids gather in the community. And of course, cyberbullying occurs on cell phones and online
- According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced bullying in these various places at school: classroom (29.3%); hallway or lockers (29.0%); cafeteria (23.4%); gym or PE class (19.5%); bathroom (12.2%); playground or recess (6.2%)
- Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying
Parenting is no easy task; especially in today's world, but you need to be present in your kids life and not rely on the school system to raise your child. Most are only looking out for themselves to avoid any legal action, not what is best for your child. Only you as a parent can know that.
Teach your kids to be kind and respectful of others and their feelings. When they do slip up (and they will trust me!), correct them and explain why that behavior is inappropriate. Let them learn from their mistakes so they aren't repeated.
That kid that dresses differently? They struggle every day being in their own skin because they know they are different and society is making them conform.
That kid that is really smart? They suffer from depression because they feel like a failure.
That kid that is awkward and wants everyone to like her? She was physically and verbally abused by her birth parents and went into the foster care system.
That kid that is beautiful on the outside? She's embarrassed about her appearance and has an eating disorder.
Life is hard enough and everyone is going to experience their own journey, but we can help our kids learn that bullying one another to make themselves feel better or more important is never the answer.