Sep 24, 2008

What to do about the bullies?

Why do there have to be bullies? What makes someone end up being a bully? How on earth do we deal with them when they sit on the bus behind our assigned seat and we cannot move from our assigned seat to get away from them?

I was very interested in what the actual definition of bullying was and it happens to be, "when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person." There are a lot of ways the bully does this:

by calling names

saying or writing nasty things about them

leaving them out of activities

not talking to them

threatening them

making them feel uncomfortable or scared

taking or damaging their things, hitting or kicking them

making them do things they do not want to do.

Whew, what a list. And I think it caught me by surprise how many things fall into the definition of bullying. I recognized a lot of behaviors on the list that sadly several grown ups have tried on me. It is worse to be bullied when you are grown up because who do you tell? You have to solve it yourself.....bummer.

Joe is being bullied on the bus by two kids who have nothing else to do. He tried to fight back by taking one of their hats and threatening to throw it out the window one day but he quickly realized that did not work. Everyday he has been giving me an update. I was not sure how to tell him how to deal with it. I understood his reluctance to "tell on them" because then they would just be meaner to him. But one day when he came off the bus and burst into tears because they had been dumping hand sanitizer in his hair I realized I could not be passive anymore. My first thought was to just pick him up from school everyday but that did not seem like the right way to deal with it....running away? I questioned Joe about if he was doing anything to them. I am the kind of mom who never believes that my kids are perfect because no kid is. So I talked to the vice principal who happened to have already heard from other kids on the bus about these boys. And he talked to Joe about it.

The boys found out that Joe told on them and they have been swearing at him and threatening him on the bus because of it. He has decided that humor is the way to deal with it. Which is how I remember dealing with it when kids would try to upset me about my height or about the fact that I wore dresses all the time. So he just smiles at them but I am still irritated by it. A small part of me feels sorry for the bullies parents how hard it must be for them to try and figure out how to get their kiddos to stop being so mean.

When I remember what I dealt with at school everyday, especially in Middle School, I wonder why I send my kids out the door everyday. But I can't hide them from the world. Bullying is everywhere people interact. Yes, even at church. That's where I have unfortunately run across it the most. A big part of bullying is threatening your victim into social isolation. And you can do that is a variety of creative ways....gossip, refusing to socialize with someone, criticizing the victims manner of dress, mocking, even laughing at them. It is so strange that I always thought of bullying as something that you have to deal with when you are a kid not when you are a grown up. Shouldn't we know better?

Why would you bully? Because you feel jealous of someone? Because someone else is bullying you? Because you resent someone? To make yourself feel better by making someone else feel bad?

All I know is my kids have at least one experience with bullying every school year so they should be experts by the time they get to college. One time for Tatiana it was a 5 th grade boy telling her she had hair on her face and harassing her about it everyday. The sad part is with some of my kids it has not been as easy to find out about it as it has been with Joe. You have to do a lot of detective work when you are a mom. Trying to figure out why they are acting the way they are. I wonder how I would know if my kid was the bully?

Nevertheless that is the excitement for the day at our house.


Brianne said...

Because of bullies I'm already frightened to send my kids off to school! I was teased a lot as a kid too...maybe we all were. I guess it's a part of growing up that we all have to deal with. It's too bad we still have to deal with it when we are "grown-up".

Anne Marie said...

I think middle school is a nightmare for so many of us. I'm so impressed by how you're handling it...being assertive and standing up for your kid without being smothering. I love your honesty. Isn't it so sad that the social cruelty of middle school lasts into adulthood (in subtler ways of course)? I have just been thinking about this very topic after some of my own experiences here in my Texas ward.

Alyson said...

I am sorry that your church bully is distressing you so. I'd beat up that person if I were there! Actually, I'd probably accidentally do something to make it worse for you .. . as so often happens when parents intervene!

another day in the life of... said...

i worry about this everyday. how do you coax your kids to talk to you enough to know what's going on, without smothering them so much that you push them away so they'll never tell you anything? ahh!