A Plea for the Bullied

Today, I’m going to deviate a bit from my usual light-hearted post to talk about something a little more serious. I don’t often share things about my personal life on this blog, but I’ve got something bothering me that I feel I need to address. If this ends up helping someone else, then it will be worth it to share.

Recently, my beautiful, smart, loving, and funny 8-year-old daughter has been subjected to bullying at her school. From what I can gather, this mostly stems from the fact that she is new to the area and she loves to read. These reasons don’t make much sense to me, but neither does bullying in general.

This is especially heartbreaking for me because I, too, was mercilessly bullied at one point in my school career. While it didn’t ultimately ruin my life (I’m still here and doing okay), it did change me by making me a more timid person. I am now less likely to express my beliefs or passionately defend them in the way I was before I was bullied. I gave up on so many things that made me happy because I so desperately wanted to be accepted. This experience also made me hesitant to open up to people and make new friends. I do not want this for my daughter, whose only desire in life so far, according to her, is to “do something to help people or animals” when she grows up.

As this post is not meant to be just a rant about my and my daughter’s experiences, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few pleas to several groups of people who might be able to make a difference in the life of a bullied child.

If you are a teacher…

If you are a teacher and you notice a child is being picked on or bullied, please don’t stand by and do nothing. I know you already have a lot to do because I was once a teacher, too, but this is something that can’t be ignored. If you witness a child being actively bullied, put a stop to it immediately. Find time to talk to any students you feel might be experiencing bullying. If you suspect at all that a bullying situation is severe, get your principal and school counselor involved. With suicide being the second leading cause of death for kids ages 10 to 24, and with bullying victims being up to nine times more likely to consider suicide, you could be saving a life.

Whatever you do, don’t join in the bullying behavior. You may think I’m crazy to say this, but some of my worst tormentors were teachers. They may not have always engaged in the name-calling, but a few of them laughed right along with the bullies. One even made a nasty comment about my naturally curly hair in front of an entire class, causing everyone in that class to laugh at me. I still remember that incident like it was yesterday. When teachers participate in bullying or even just tacitly put up with it, it gives bullies more power to inflict their damage. I know teachers are just regular people trying to do a job, and they may feel like they need to be “cool” to keep their students under control, but picking on a student is never acceptable.

If you are a parent…

If you are a parent and you think your child is being bullied, please talk to them. If they have sudden changes in their behavior or emotions, or they suddenly don’t want to go to school anymore, they could be experiencing bullying. I first realized something was wrong when my school-loving daughter suddenly hated school and began saying she had no friends.

If the bullying is going on at school, contact your child’s teacher to address the problem. If that doesn’t work, go to the principal. If you can, try to be proactive in encouraging your school district to adopt an anti-bullying program. Whatever you do, take your child’s feelings seriously. And if you suspect your child is at risk of suicide or self-harm, please seek professional help immediately.

Parents can also help by modeling appropriate behavior for their kids. Sadly, even bullies themselves are at risk, as bullies are more likely to engage in risky behavior throughout their lives, including criminal activity (according to the National Crime Prevention Council). So, it is in every parent’s interest to stop bullying. If you think your child is bullying others, you should always intervene immediately and try to find out the reasons behind their behavior.

I’d like to be able to say that we have worked out the perfect solution to put an end to our daughter’s bullying, but this is life and there are few fairy tale endings in the real world. We’ve discussed trying out online school until we can move to a better school district. We think this might help our daughter feel free to love learning without the fear of being persecuted for it, though we know we will have to supplement school with lots of socializing activities. But I can already see my daughter becoming less sure of herself and giving up on things that give her joy just so she can fit in. This may have happened to me, but I am determined not to let this happen to her.

 

 

3 Comments

  • Shay May 5, 2017 at 2:47 am

    My daughter had issues with a few girls at school and I contacted the school counselor and he helped tremendously! It was so subtle that sometimes teachers can’t see it happening. The counselor spoke to my daughter and then to the girls separately and things have been better. She’s a 5th grader. I hope things will get better for your daughter. It breaks my heart that people feel they need to be mean.

    Reply
  • Stacey May 8, 2017 at 3:07 am

    This hit a little too close to home for me and I am actually trying to write my own post about online bullying, which my daughter has also experienced. It just hurts to know that people find it necessary to put others down. Thank you for sharing your story and the tips for teachers and parents alike.

    Reply
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