National Anti-Bullying Month

by Cate on October 29, 2012

WPIR - Friday sunset
I can’t explain how much I hate the fact that we now have an Anti-Bullying Month. I mean, really. We need to have a month dedicated to making people aware of how to properly treat others? This is what it’s come to?

But so it has. And, honestly, if it helps, then that’s awesome. But it’s a shame that treating people kindly, with acceptance and tolerance, is not always the standard.

It’s just not right.

As as a mom to a kid who has been bullied in the past, it breaks my heart.

There is little worse than seeing your child hurting, because of someone else intentionally going after them. To see someone hurt. Someone who has such.a.good.heart. Especially when Nick is very much a turn-the-other-cheek kind of child. Much like his father, he is very low-key, and little phases him. It takes a lot to really push his buttons. To upset him. He believes the best in people, as I’ve taught him, and unfortunately, he’s had real-life lessons in the past that that’s not always the case.

The wife of a friend of mine recently mentioned that their son was being bullied at school and she wanted to know how to best handle it. As someone who’s been there, I gave advice the best I could.

1. Try and have the kids work it out themselves first. One of the greatest tools we can teach our kids is to be independent and problem solve on their own. While they need us as kids, we are to raise them so they don’t need us later. My first go-to plan is to always tell Nick to try and work it out with the other child amongst themselves. Perhaps he’s had a bad day. Didn’t mean it. Wasn’t intentional. It was misconstrued. We go through all the possibilities and play devil’s advocate first.

2. Reach out to the teacher (coach or whoever else) and explain the problem. While I want my kids to be able to work things out on their own whenever possible, sometimes it just can’t be done, and a grown-up’s assistance is needed. I’ll talk to the teacher, make her aware of the problem (including specific instances that have occurred), and hope that will put an end to it.

3. Talk to the other parent. There are two possible outcomes with this. Both of which we have encountered. a) The parent is completely unaware of how their child is behaving and acts quickly and swiftly and the problem is taken care of. Or b) the child’s behavior definitely is a trickle-down effect from the parent, and you can see right away why the child thinks this bullying behavior is ok.

4. (And likely this should be done during the steps above, not necessarily as a last resort) … Try and mitigate the instances where the children will be together. Switch sports teams. Classes. Subtle and not-so-subtle moves to put a little distance between the children so there is less opportunity for bullying to take place.

There are no magic answers. But I feel that a lot of it all starts at home. Both in raising children who know what the right thing to do is, and raising children who don’t care.

I want my children to grow up accepting of others. Tolerating differences. To be happy. And independent. To be free to be themselves.

It might sound like a tall order. But it’s not. These are characteristics that I also look for in my own friendships and relationships. The people we interact with on a regular basis. Although I don’t look to keep my kids in a bubble, I do seek to surround them with positivity. Love. Good people. Strong role models.

Earlier last week, Nick kept mentioning that his class was getting a new student on Thursday. Another boy. Which made 16 boys to 5 girls.

His teacher is a saint. Well, and she’s very young and still green (first year teacher).

Late Wednesday night, after sending the kids back upstairs for the 67th time, I was beyond exasperated.

I mean, go to bed already. No more water. Or telling me something. Or asking me a very important question. Or rearranging things we need for school. Or finding out when I’m coming to bed.

Go the heck to bed.

(And really, this is hard. Every night.)

I heard the footsteps on the staircase yet again. I knew, without looking, who it was. Just by the sound and movement.

“Nick, puh-leeze. It’s after 10 o’clock. You don’t get up well in the morning to begin with. PLEASE GO TO BED BEFORE I LOSE MY EVER-LOVING MIND.”

I really tried not to raise my voice.

You know, neighbors and all.

It didn’t matter. He still walked into my office, not hearing any of my words.

“Mom, I just want to show you something. We have that new kid starting tomorrow and I made him something.”

I looked over and he showed me a construction paper poster that he had made him. Welcoming him to class. Hoping he has a fun year.

How can I be frustrated at that? Because it is a page from what I preach.

And then, after swelling with mom pride, my heart broke. Just a little.

Because that very heart. His. That very spirit. Is the one I so fiercely protect.

That.

The one that bullies don’t give a whit about.

As parents, we can only do so much. We prepare them. And protect them. And support them. And love them. And teach them.

And then release them.

And hope, hope, hope that the world treats them just right. And that if it doesn’t, that the lessons and love they’ve learned from home will help them. Choose right from wrong. Dust themselves off after a bad day. Or bad choice. To continue to believe. To trust. To have faith.

Monitor what your kids watch on tv. How they spend their free time. Who they’re interacting with on facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Who their friends are. What excites them. What upsets them. Their influences. Who’s in their ear. Whispering to them when you’re not.

Be in every corner of their world. But not in their face. You have to give them space to make their own decisions. To trust that you did your job and sometimes it has to be up to them.

But raise them good.

Because good begets good.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne October 30, 2012 at 6:49 am

My cousin was bullied a LOT in middle school…and it definitely broke her. If having a month to fight against it stops even just a few bullies…then it’s worth it.
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Broccoli and Cauliflower Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Goat Cheese

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Jen October 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

Your post made me cry. Your children are so lucky to have a wonderful Mom who gets it.

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Suzi October 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Nick…you are one terrific kid!

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