Well, it's that time of year, back to school.
New clothes - check
New hairdo - check
New school supplies - check
New backpack - check
Parents are ready for summer holidays to be over and for routine and schedules to start up again. The summers are long for some parents and the thought of school, it's the happiest time of the year. The children are excited to be reunited with old friends, meet new friends and find out if they got their favourite teacher. This is pretty much the same across the board from kindergarten to grade 12. We all get excited, although it is short lived with the older kids. :) As a teacher, I used to get excited to start the new year, meet all of my new students and get the year going.
Most of our schools here in Canada, on the traditional calendar, started school last week. It hasn't been long but the bullying has started. Let's be clear and define bullying.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
- An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
- Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
- Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
- Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
- Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
What are the effects of bullying?
Bullying makes people upset. It can make children feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. It can make them feel unsafe and think there must be something wrong with them. Children can lose confidence and may not want to go to school anymore. It may even make them sick.
Some people think bullying is just part of growing up and a way for young people to learn to stick up for themselves. But bullying can have long-term physical and psychological consequences. Some of these include:
Withdrawal from family and school activities, wanting to be left alone.
Not being able to sleep
Sleeping too much
I think back to my elementary, junior high and high school years. I clearly remember being bullied. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember sitting in Language Arts class and the boy sitting in front of me called me FAT, he did this many times. He has never apologized. I was in grade 9. I was 14 years old. This was 23 years ago. I remember the 'cool' girls in high school. I remember them being too cool to be kind to others. I remember all of the incidents. It doesn't go away. It never goes away. It was years of bullying, disrespect and tears.
I can hear some people saying, "Oh, just get over it."
"You know it's not true."
"It's time to get on with life."
"Don't dwell on it."
The pain never goes away.
For those who bullied, do you just get over it? Do you think back to the days when you harassed, name called, made others feel worthless? I hope that you do. I hope that you make right with others who you hurt. They aren't over it. It doesn't just go away. I remember the times that I bullied others. I did it too. I was tall, I was loud, I wasn't shy. I remember times in elementary and junior high school when I bullied others. I do remember and it hurts me to this day, that I behaved that way. If I could go back and fix it, I would in a second. This is what children need to understand, be a good person today, be kind to others today. Your words and actions will remain with others forever. A lifetime.
The saying 'sticks and stones can break your bones, but names with never hurt me.' I'm not too sure who came up with the most ridiculous saying. It is the most untrue statement that I have ever heard. Words hurt. Words hurt a lot and for a lifetime.
When I hear my niece tell my sister that she is being picked on at school because of her shoes, because of an outfit, because of an answer she gave in class, I get mad, I get upset, I feel such hurt and pain for her. She has been at school for less then 2 weeks and the bullying has started. It's not just an isolated incident, it's over and over again. It's my niece coming home crying because she was teased. It's my niece getting in the car after school and telling my sister that she tried her hardest to fight back the tears when she was the target of bullying that day at school. She's in grade 4, grade 4! These are the years to laugh, play, learn, meet good friends, learn about the good in the world. This is not the time to feel so much pain, not want to go to school, be afraid of your peers. She told my sister that she's afraid to tell the 'mean' girls to stop because then she thinks they will tell on her and she'll get into trouble. She doesn't want to tell the teacher because she thinks that she will get into trouble for being a tattle tale, so it's easier to keep quiet and to not say anything at all. She was so conflicted. Why does an 8 year old have to deal with this?
My next point. Where does your child learn how to bully others? Yup, I'm going to tell you. They learn it from you. That is it. Your child listens to all of your words. Your child watches your every move. Your child is your shadow. When you are fighting with your spouse, when you are gossiping about others, when you are bad mouthing a teacher, another child, a friend, your child is taking in every word, every action. YOU are creating a bully because you are one yourself.
I've seen parents yell at others, other adults, in front of their child and then the following week punish their child for yelling at students on the playground. I have seen a father grab his child by the throat and push her up against the wall, blood shooting out of her mouth, yelling at her, berating her. This meeting was set up because the previous day, she physically harmed a staff member, yelled at the staff member and berated her in front of others.
Your child is a product of you. Do you understand?
I have spoken with parents who deny adamantly that their child bullies others, yet they have been approached by others, talked to by teachers, talked to by parents in the community, but continue to put the blame on others. Talk to your children. Listen to what others are telling you.
It starts in the home. It all starts in the home.
Please sit down with your children. Please discuss their day. Here are some good questions....
SIMPLE SIMON AND COMPANY
1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.
3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)
4. Where is the coolest place at the school?
5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)
6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?
7. How did you help somebody today?
8. How did somebody help you today?
9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.
10. When were you the happiest today?
11. When were you bored today?
12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?
13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you've never played with before?
14. Tell me something good that happened today.
15. What word did your teacher say most today?
16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?
17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?
18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?
19. Where do you play the most at recess?
20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?
21. What was your favorite part of lunch?
22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?
23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?
24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?
25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.
Be the positive and healthy role model that you should be for your children. Be the parent who walks into a parent/teacher interview and the teacher tells you that your child is being awarded the kindness award. That your child is always willing to help others. That your child is a good friend to all students.
I'm going to leave you with this last thought....
The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
- 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
- According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying