What Do You Think Wednesday – On Bullying and Learning To Stand Your Ground

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image from stopbullying.gov.  Wait.... there's a government website about bullying?!

image from stopbullying.gov. Wait…. there’s a government website about bullying?!

Bullying is big news these days.  Schools hold assemblies, teaching children to be “bucket fillers.”  There are zero tolerance bullying policies. Kids are being disciplined, suspended and, in come cases, criminally prosecuted for actions being deemed as “bullying.”  Some days it seems fully half my Facebook feed is pictures and memes demanding an end to bullying.

I get it.  My best friend in school was bullied so badly that now, 20 years after graduation, she still gets emotional talking about it.  I don’t blame her in the least.  It wasn’t just the children. There were times when teachers not only turned a blind eye but egged the situation on.

Bullying has pushed children to drop out of school and harm themselves through self destructive and suicidal behavior.

It is vitally important that we don’t dismiss it as “normal childhood behavior.”

Any self-respecting Hippie knows that the path to our continued survival and growth as a species is through loving one another.

There is no room for bullying in a loving environment.  Not among family members or classmates or co-workers or anywhere else.

That said…

Have we gotten a little ridiculous about the whole thing?

Where do you draw the line between kids making inappropriately blunt or hurtful remarks because they are children and don’t always know better or think before they speak, and bullying?

I know several people who were kind-of bossy, take-charge people.  I need these people in my life. Some times I need a swift kick in the pants to get me moving in the right direction and I count on my outspoken and honest friends to provide that when those moments come.  Would they, as children in today’s world, be labeled as bullies and have that valuable personality trait crushed out of them by “zero tolerance” policies?

And isn’t there something to be said for growing a thick skin?  I understand that one person’s “swift kick in the pants” can be another person’s crushing blow and no one likes to see their loved ones hurt but don’t we need to teach our children to deal appropriately with the criticism and even the cruelty of others?  After all, they will deal with it their whole lives.  It happens when we are pulled over by police officers on a power trip, badgered by bosses who are threatened by us, and picked on by neighbors with superiority complexes.  If they don’t learn how to cope with those people on the schoolyard, how will the deal with them in the boardroom?

That doesn’t even get into the issue of conflict resolution.  Some children (some humans) are very strong willed. Some are more flexible. Some are very self confident. Some need the affirmations of other like they need food and water.  We all need to know how to deal with each other – and that includes the tenderhearted knowing how to deal with those of aggressive spirits.

And, in a “zero tolerance” environment, who decides which incidents count as bullying?  If a member of the Glee Club get’s a slushy in the face, that clearly qualifies.  But what about when one little girl looks at another and says, “I don’t like your shoes.”  Bullying or just tactless?

But then we’ve come full circle.  Those with aggressive spirits need to learn very early on that their actions can be painful to others and they need to learn to act and speak from a place of strong loving kindness.

So…  what do you think?

Do you support “zero tolerance” anti-bullying policies or are you more in favor of kids learning to stand their own ground?

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11 responses »

  1. My junior year in hs was the worst year of my life. I was bullied by a group of girls, lead by one ring leader. All because one of my “friends” was mad that the guy she liked, liked me instead. It didn’t matter to her that I didn’t give him the time of day and stayed loyal to her. She went and toldmy tormenter that I was messing around with her bf (because we worked together). So
    her and her gang of friends would approach me in the halls with threats of kicking my @ss and every time they came around, my “friends” scattered like roaches when the lights are turned on. That lovliness, coupled with my crappy home life, led me to a suicide attempt mid year. Obviously it wasn’t successful, but I have major trust issues and really don’t trust anyone not to bail on me. I still struggle with depression (sometimesnon a daily basis).
    If I get any inkling that my kids are being bullied I’m yanking them from public school and that’ll be my decision to finally homeschool. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. And that is why I used to say that I would never have kids. I didn’t want to bring anyone into a cruel selfish world, knowing that I couldn’t protect them 100% of the time. Apparently my hormones got the best of me and the baby bug bit, cuz here they are. Lol

  2. I was bullied on the school bus. The bus driver turned a blind eye. Did I learn to stand up for myself and grow a thick skin? Maybe, maybe not. Bullying has lasting effects. I do think there is a fine line, and in today’s culture we tend to go overboard on everything.

  3. I don’t fully support the zero-tolerance policies for bullying and other issues. I think these ‘zero-tolerance’ stands are a load of hooey and really don’t amount to anything beyond policing our children over every behavior and word they speak.

    While I absolutely understand the need to protect our children why is bullying so much more prevelant (or so it seems to be) today than it used to be? Or is it about the same we just hear about it so much more often in our 24-hour news environment.

  4. Oh gosh this is a big subject with so many facets. I’m supportive of zero tolerance with common sense. As a prior school teacher I can say that without zero tolerance some kids will never “get” it. I think the punishment needs to fit the crime, and since that is a little subjective I would suggest a panel of people which would include parents deciding upon the punishment.

  5. There was just a great article going around that touches on some of these ideas: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/9650581/School-ditches-rules-and-loses-bullies

    Personally, I’m not for more rules or how “zero tolerance” is likely implemented. But I’m also not for “letting things go”. I do think that things have gotten worse – that’s why so many kids are committing suicide. It’s a serious issue.

    I think that it starts in our homes and how we treat each other. Many parents bully their kids. They just call it good parenting. Contrary to what some might think – being kind to our children will 1) model kindness for them (duh!) and 2) develop RESILIENCE in them. Also they will know that there is somewhere where they are always loved and valued – a safe haven.

    I don’t think this issue is one to take lightly at all AND I don’t think that what we are doing now is working. “Anti-bullying programs”, “zero-tolerance” etc are not getting to the root of the issue.

    Here is something I wrote last fall about Bullying: http://www.togetherwalking.com/1/post/2013/10/bullying-its-time-for-a-new-perspective.html

    and here is another one of my favorite blogs thoughts on parenting and bullying:(which I also linked in my post): http://www.ourmuddyboots.com/bullying-our-children/

  6. Sometimes in our zeal to address a very real very serious problem, we rush into solutions that transcend common sense. Your example of what constitutes bullying (the slushy in the face or the flippant remark about ugly shoes) is a real problem. Who decides? How can you enforce consistency? Lets not even get into proof. You also make a good point as to what one person considers bullying, another may find laughable and a non-issue. Does that make the sensitive person’s feelings any less valuable? Although I recognize the need to address the bullying issue, I’m not sure that I have the perfect solution. It seems the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, but that is just my opinion.

  7. I think that it is really about knowing people. We want to put every single behavior in a neat little box, and label it, but that can’t always be done. The same statement, said in the exact same way, to my daughter will motivate her, but would crush my son. Because I know them, I can treat them accordingly. So many times kids are lost in the “machine” and so no one really evaluates how that one specific child is responding, it is a “one size fits all” set of rules. That just doesn’t work. I think we will continue to see this issue escalate until we begin to invest in kids as individuals, not as a collective. Then we can really determine what is truly “bullying”. Also, we need to continue to reinforce the Golden Rule with our own kids, so that they are a solution to the problem, not the cause.

  8. I don’t think anyone would say bullying is good. I think we can all agree that bullying shouldn’t be acceptable. However, I do think that the zero-tolerance policies have gone overboard, to the point of ridiculousness.
    I have a friend whose son, in elementary school, had a girl who liked him. She kept trying to kiss him. He kept telling her no. Finally, one day, he exclaimed, “I don’t ever want to kiss you!” Because he “bullied” her, he was suspended from school for several days. I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Maybe he hurt her feelings, but that’s very different from bullying.

  9. I think that even when there is bullying and you have taught your children how to act/react to it…. and you have gone so far as to contacted your school… no one listens. So much for anti-bullying policies 😦 I just try to help my son through it and hopefully build him up to be a stronger person on the other end of school.

  10. Two things on my mind when I hear about bullying. Number one: what the heck are parents teaching the bullies? When my kids, and now my grandkids were little, I took them to the pond and told them to throw a rock in there. We watched the ripples go out farther and farther till they came back to us. I taught them “Every word you say and every thing you do is like one of those ripples. They go lots farther than the word or act and eventually they come back and touch you. So be careful what you say and do. You do not want to put bad stuff out there”. Then we had a little talk about what “bad stuff” might be. Like, if you want to call somebody a jerk, think about how you would feel if somebody called YOU a jerk”. Heck, it was a lazy day and we spent a good 45 minutes down by the pond, tossing rocks in and talking. None of my children ever bullied or said mean things to anyone and would stand up for a weaker kid when someone else did it.

    Second thing: Kids have to learn that the world is real and their parents and teacher are not always going to be there. When my daughter was in fourth grade, some 5th graders chased her home from school. They pushed her and shoved her and she came home crying every day. I sat her down and told her this: “I can go to the school tomorrow and talk to the teachers and get them in trouble and then they will keep on calling you a baby and tormenting you. Or, you can stand up for yourself, no matter how scared you are. I told her to let them chase her off the school grounds, halfway home. Then, I said, you turn around and pick the biggest one. You smack her right in the nose. That kind of person doens”t like it at all when it’s THEM getting hurt. She will stop. She chose the latter and came home from school the next day and told me they all stopped chasing her and the girl cried and she just stood there, pretending she wasn’t afraid. Ended up they became friends. The girl still talks to her after 40 years. She earned respect.

    None of my children were bullies. They were taught that they had no right to pick a fight or start any trouble by picking on some one. They were also taught that they did not have to take abuse from anyone. No one had the right to hurt them antd if someone did, fight back. Of course these days, the kid who fights back gets into trouble also and probably suspended. But kids have to learn that other people have boundaries. There is a limit to what you will take from them. If they call you names, well, they are just showing their ignorance and you do not have to believe or take to heart the hurtful things that they say. If they get physical, that’s a different story. Walk alert. Be aware and don’t ever let them think you are scared.

  11. I was bullied a lot as a child in school, and I hated school so much that I skipped as often as possible once I reach high school. It wasn’t just the other kids, it was the teachers too!
    It all goes back to what happens at home. It doesn’t matter how many policies are in place, the bullying will continue. It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

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