Years ago, while married to a lovely woman with two young sons, I gained first hand knowledge of bullying and I immediately was bothered by it – unfortunately, while venting about it, I ran into a brick wall because most people, including various couples, considered it simply a right of passage – and to that I took strong exception and probably alienated myself, more so from a few of the fathers.
My two stepsons were really great kids. They both had a great relationship with their father – who I found to be a very competitive individual – either when competing on his own or as a parent at his son’s sporting events.
My oldest stepson was rather lanky – not too tall and on the thinner side. He really liked being a little league catcher and was quite good at the position but as he got older, his smaller size prevented him throwing out runner’s stealing to second base.
When he got into high school, he was not large enough for competitive football or baseball so he gravitated to golf – a sport he grasped quickly.
He was also on the school newspaper staff and he really loved writing editorials. He was quite talented at drawing cartoons and he used that talent to draw clever editorial cartoons.
Unfortunately, he sometimes vented through these cartoons and as a result got a little backlash from time to time – sometimes the backlash got physical.
While on the golf team, he soon realized that even though the school was populated by kids from upscale neighborhoods, golf was not one of the school’s premier sports – football and baseball were the most popular sports and all other sports were secondary at best.
Unfortunately, the golfers resented all the praise and glory the jocks on the football and baseball teams got. Also, the golfers had to buy all their own equipment and no matter how good the results of the golf team, they could not crack the barrier for recognition.
I guess in an effort to vent about the issue, he wrote an editorial critical of the jocks and all the recognition they got.
The next day, he was approached in the boy’s restroom by a bunch of football players and a few of them read him the riot act and placed him head first in a three foot tall circular metal trash can – which unfortunately fit him to a tee because he was relatively thin. The only bruising he suffered was with his ego – no broken bones or cuts.
When he told his mother, and me, my heart went out to him. He was mortified but smart enough to discourage us from bringing this to the attention of the administrators at his school. He and his younger brother knew of the backlash “bullied” kids received for squealing about anything inappropriate that happened on or off campus that was school related.
A few days later, some bubba drove his big pick up truck up our street and totally destroyed our four-foot tall brick mailbox holder. We assume it was related to the trashcan incident and the editorial but we could never prove it.
Our friends at church and in our neighborhood all felt bad about the incidents but most of them quietly said that kind of stuff happens and it will pass.
My stepson made it through this tough period because he had a loving family and a caring extended family. He also had a brother who really cared about him as well. In addition, because he was not a loner, he had friends at school who stood by him and were there for him.
Cliques and jocks flex their muscles at times and their parents usually laugh it off because their kids are on the giving end and not the receiving end.
The parents of bullies usually blow things off by saying that kids will be kids and they hint that they “might” talk to their kids about toning things down.
Also around that time there were incidents where kids were treated much worse than my stepson and even some of the teachers and admin personnel seemed to blow these situations off as well.
A few years later, after I was divorced, I read about Columbine and I tied the events at my stepson’s schools to events at Columbine – no, the degree of the events were not the same – death cannot compare to trashcans and editorials but I believe they probably started out the same and a few situations escalated way out of control and ended up with kids being murdered.
I have personally seen on many occasions where the more well off kids picked on those of lesser social status. It got down to either what the “poorer” kids were wearing, what sports they signed up for, whether they were on the pep squad versus being a cheerleader, the debate team versus student patrol – either way, it was a case of the haves versus the have nots.
It all starts out fairly innocent – one popular girl picking on a girl who is not part of the clique. It escalates to two popular girls and then three and then five or ten.
Then a few girls outside the clique join the clique and it soon seems like the one less popular girl (or boy) is being picked on by most of the school. In reality, the odds are not what they seem but it still forces the less popular girl (or boy) into a shell or even a cave and that can be devastating.
What is worse today is that we have social networks on the Internet and these cliques can become vicious because much of these kinds of attacks are anonymous and that is when the real hatred and insecurities grow exponentially. Now you see kids committing suicide at an alarming rate because they do not have coping skills to deal with all the anger and attacks being thrown at them.
I might be looking at this whole issue superficially, but I believe the larger the network of the child being picked on, the better the odds of that child “surviving” the bullying. So, to parents of those being bullied, be there for your kids, listen to them, do everything possible to bring them out of their shells, and most of all, let them know how much they are loved. Do not be afraid to ask them what you can do to alleviate some of the pressure and stress – and most importantly, do not go to extremes in dealing with bullying issues – unless you feel it has gotten to a life and death situation.
Whatever you do, do not leave your kids alone to fend for themselves – they generally lack the social skills to cope.
Most importantly, even jokingly, never express any desires to attacking or harming the bullies. Kids could misinterpret your comments as suggestions that they can take matters in their own hands and that could prove deadly for the bullies or even your kids.
And lastly, parents, don’t reinvent the wheel, there are many resources in local churches, law enforcement offices, mental health facilities, and on the Internet – yes the Internet. If you are the parent of someone being bullied – do your homework, learn as much about the situation as possible – even if it means visiting the school and talking to someone in authority in confidence to become knowledgeable of the situation from all sides.
For those of you who believe in God, pray about it and for those of you who do not believe, all is not lost – hang in there, be a great listener – not just a good listener – and use your network of good friends to work through this tough period.
For anyone interested there is another blogger on WordPress who has posted extensively on Bullying and her name is Engel Kobres and her blog is: http://bullyingrealsolutionsdotcom.wordpress.com/the-real-solutions-blog/
I thoroughly enjoy reading her posts and I suggest her blog to anyone wanting to learn more about Bullying.
My Disclaimer: I am not a Psychologist nor do I have a degree in Counseling – nor am I a health care professional. What I am, though, is a caring person who would like to see an end to bullying. My ideas here are just that – they are my thoughts on what people might consider doing to help someone cope with being bullied. Some of my ideas my be counter to what a mental health care professional might advise. Please do not take everything I have written here as solutions to bullying – just accept them as possible ideas that could help in certain situations.