ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: 'Bullying is Not Cool'

 

‘Bullying is Not Cool’

 

 

 

Sometimes my toddler sings, “Don’t bother me” and every time he does I can’t help but smile. Once I teasingly asked him, “Who’s bothering you?” I found this amusing until this week. I got serious when I thought of Shane, a character on the soap opera, One Life to Live. I thought of what would happen if he said to the kid who was bullying him, “Don’t bother me.” It was discovered that Shane was receiving threatening messages on his laptop. This had been happening for some time but no one knew. Shane never told his parents. He kept this terrible secret to himself. One morning he told them that he couldn’t go to school because he wasn’t feeling well. They bought his story and gave him permission to stay home from school. They left him home with his grandmother, not suspecting anything. It was by accident that Shane’s grandmother found these messages. She needed to search for something on the Internet and his laptop was there so she opened it to use it and there was the latest message from the faceless bully.

She confronted Shane who confessed that this had been happening for a while but he made her promise not to tell his parents. He feared that things would get worse. He said that “they will get tired and pick on someone else.” His grandmother reluctantly agreed not to tell his parents but when they returned home later that day, her parting words to them were, “Keep an eye on your son.” Meanwhile, Shane got the ominious message, “You can’t stay home forever. I will get you tomorrow.” You can see the despair and hopelessness came over him as he sank down in his chair, his hands gripping his head.

As a child I was never bullied and as a mother I hope and pray that it would never happen to my child. Somewhere out there a boy is going through the same ordeal as Shane. He is receiving awful messages. He is cutting school. He is holding all of this inside. He is hoping that the problem will go away and that someone else will have to deal with it. Unlike this boy, the actor who plays Shane can stop playacting once he hears the word, “Cut!” This kid who is going through is real and it won’t go away unless there is help. Here in Canada, there is the Stop a Bully a safe bullying report program where kids who witness other kids being bullied can report what they saw without any risk of becoming targets themselves. “The program can prevent bullying behavior by increasing awareness and accountability. In joining the Stop A Bully program, schools are take a PROACTIVE approach in trying to reduce violence, schoolyard & cyber bullying. Stop A Bully also empowers students to become active participants in reducing bullying in their own schools.”

I read some stories that really touched me. Farida got picked on and had no idea why. She feared going to class because of the bullying that she endured every day for a year. Her bully was in the same grade as she was. He taunted, humiliated her and called her names. One day, she couldn’t bear it any longer. She ran out of the class and into the hallway where she broke into tears in the hallway. Her brother passed by and saw her. It was her chance to open up about the ordeal she has endured for so long. Read more about her story.

 

Daniel’s personality changed drastically because of the aggressive bullying he suffered through grades 8 and 9. He changed from a smiley, goofy kid to one who was self-destructive—cutting his skin and abusing drugs. He even had suicidal tendencies because he felt that adults were not doing their job. “I don’t want one other student to reach that point because of the stupidity of adults. If you are at the receiving end of some form of aggression, you must find someone who will listen. You have a voice and you have human rights. Please don’t do what I did …. find someone or an organization that can help. There are lots out there. And above all else, don’t be afraid to use your voice (http://stopabully.ca/support/).

Niki was a bullying victim and it got worst when she was in grades 6 and 7. She did not want to go to school anymore and her grades were dropping. Like Daniel, her personality changed as a result. She was no longer the very happy, excited, enthusiastic kid that made everyone laugh and she was going through her parents’ divorce. She was depressed and she had no self-esteem. She felt deserted and alone with no means of escape. She was trapped in an unending cycle of harrassment and jokes. The teachers didn’t help. They laughed at the jokes and encouraged the behavior. Niki’s mother spoke to the bullies’ parents, the cops and the teachers. Eventually she was pulled from her class at the beginning of grade 8 but her problems were far from over. Read more about her story.

As I read these stories, I asked myself three questions: What is bullying? Why are some kids bullied? Why do kids bully?

What is bullying? It is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and treasured possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use email, chat rooms, instant messages, social networking websites, and text messages to taunt others or hurt their feelings. It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of self-worth and future relationships. In severe cases, bullying has contributed to tragedies, such as school shootings (http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/bullies.html).

What are some kids bullied? Some young people are bullied for no particular reason, but usually it’s because they are different in some way – perhaps it’s the colour of their skin, the way they talk, their size or their name. Sometimes young people are bullied because they look like they won’t stand up for themselves.

Why do kids bully? There are a lot of reasons why children bully. They may see it as a way of being popular, showing off, or making themselves look tough. Some children bully to get attention, and some just like making other people feel afraid of them. Others might be jealous of the person they are bullying, or might be being bullied themselves. They may not even realise that what they are doing is wrong and how it makes their victims feel (http://www.police.govt.nz/service/yes/nobully/bully_info.html#four).

I noticed that boys were mainly the bullies in all the articles I read but girls bully too. And they bully differently from boys. According to research done by Lagerspetz, Bjorqvist and Peltonen at the University of Miami, when girls bully they use things like alienation, ostracism, deliberate and calculated random exclusions, and spreading of rumors to harass their peers.

Girls get other kids to gang up on one or more peers as a way of exerting control. Sometimes they incite other children to act out aggressively and sit back to watch the show. They form groups that pick and choose members at random and exclude others without real reason. They form alliances with other social groups in an effort to jockey for popularity and positions of power among peers. All too often the bullying tactics used by girls are brushed off as cruel but normal social interactions. Sometimes, girls bully boys. They may call a boy “gay” or hit a boy because they know he can’t hit them back (http://teenadvice.about.com/od/violencebullying/a/girlbullies.htm).

Many young women who are bullied do not try to stop the bullies. This may be because they do not know many other teen girls are also bullied each year. Some teens are so afraid of losing their friends that they go along with what others say and do, even if it is mean and hurts themselves or other people (http://www.girlshealth.gov/bullying/whybullied/index.cfm).

Kids, teens, bullying is not cool. You are hurting others and making their lives miserable. Don’t try to be popular at someone’s else expense. Bullying does not make you tough. It is the act of a coward picking on someone else. This is not the way to get attention. It is the wrong kind of attention. Do you want to be known as the kid who bullied other kids? Why don’t you be the kid who used to be a bully but now you are helping another kid who is being bullied by reporting it?

Teens, if you have friends who bully others, it’s time to stop hanging out with them. You’re not being a friend to them when you go along with what they are saying and doing. And these are not the kind of friends you want to have.

Parents, if your child or teen is bullying others, don’t get angry. Stay calm. Talk to your child or teen. Find out why he or she is bullying another student. Help him or her to understand how the other student feels. Encourage your child or teen to stop bullying or not to join in when someone else is being bullied. Make it clear that bullying is never okay and if he or she sees another child being bullied to report it. Talk to your child’s or teen’s school to see if they have any programs that would help him or her.

If you are being bullied, please tell someone. Tell your parents, a teacher or someone you trust. You have a right to be safe in your school. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. You have a right to be safe. No one has the right to bully you.

Parents, if you suspect your child or teen is being bullied, please encourage him or her to talk to you. Be supportive and let him or her know that the bullying is not his or her fault. Don’t take any action without talking to your child first. Encourage your child’s school to adopt the “no bullying” policy or “stop a bully” program so that children and adolescents are able to learn in a safe environment.

Teachers, please step in when a child in your class is being ridiculed or humiliated. Don’t encourage the bullies. Stand up for the victims. You are in charge. Show some leadership. Let everyone know that that kind of behavior WILL NOT be tolerated in your classroom.

 

Parents, we need to step up and help our kids—whether they are bullies or victims.

 

~ Adele Butler, 2011

 

We need to stop the cycle!

We need to spread the message that bullying is not cool.

 

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