To continue on with yesterday's topic of violence in our schools, today I'm going to share a very disturbing and heartbreaking article. Once you read it, then come back and see if you agree with what I propose as a solution to stop the bullying problem. Or to greatly diminish it I should say, I doubt anything could stop it completely…
Here's the article (have your kleenex handy):
How Can We STOP Bullying?
I know, your heart is breaking for Kennis' family and your blood is boiling about those bullies too isn't it? And it doesn't sound like they even showed any remorse afterward…
So we all know that we can't count on schools to fix this problem. Yes, they should've expelled those girls at the first sign of their bullying, but for whatever reason, oftentimes schools just don't. And yes, the family unit in our country has broken down terribly, Dad's aren't in the picture or they're weak role models, who even KNOWS all the dysfunction that goes on behind closed doors and all the reasons that a kid can turn into a bully, but sadly, that's not going to change anytime soon either.
Where are the answers to teen violence, suicide, and all the dysfunction and sadness in between?
For sure there isn't an easy tie-it-in-a-bow fix to the mess, but I have an idea — I'll share my thoughts, even though you may disagree…
Here's what I propose:
GET THEM THE HELL OUT OF THERE.
Yes, take them out of the school when you find out that there's a problem! Now obviously, this will depend on what's going on, the severity of the situation, etc., but personally, I'd err on the side of caution. Whether it's homeschooling, changing schools, an online school, homeschool co-op classes, or whatever, there are enough options nowadays, but we need to protect our kids from the MEAN kids out there. Physically AND emotionally.
Our job is to prepare them for the real world, yes, and to teach them about being strong in adversity, in certain situations the best thing may be helping them to get through it and I hate the thought of coddled kids as much as anyone, but there are plenty of other ways to teach our kids to be tough. In real life, as adults, if we're treated like this we DON'T HANG AROUND those people anymore. We don't say, “I'm going to teach myself to handle adversity,” and continue being around them! Not only that, but as adults we're more mature and better able to handle these situations. We say, “Wow what jerks!” and we move on. You may ask, “What if the jerk is at your job someday and you just don't have a choice?” Again, as adults you're better able to handle it — you talk to your boss or try to work it out somehow, OR you change jobs — as adults we have choices!
As I said in my post where I explained how we came to our decision to homeschool (“If you thought I was crazy before, wait 'til you hear this one“):
Some kids have no trouble moving through all of these academic and social minefields, but ours were struggling, so I’m thankful for a way to get them out of that unpredictable mess. I don’t want to shield them from a little adversity which brings growing and learning experiences, but I most certainly do want to shield them from dangerous experiences until they’re mature enough to deal with them appropriately or in a position to know how to avoid them in the first place.”
One thing I didn't share in that post was that at the time, one of our kids was dealing with a little bit of a bullying issue. It wasn't terrible (as far as we knew), but when I went in to talk to the school about it, they handled it SO poorly that my heart still gets all worked up and angry when I think about it, and that was 4 years ago. It was one more reason that I was SO happy to break him out of that place, it was one more confirmation that God provided to make me sure that was the path for us. One of my close friends' kids was bullied for months (one certain kid knocked the books out of his hands every day one school year) and it broke her heart even more because he didn't tell her until it was almost time for school to start the following year, that's when he threw a huge fit about going back. They did lots of role-playing and helped him figure out how to handle it, but in the back of her mind she knew that if it didn't get better quickly, they'd definitely homeschool.
It may not be the path for every family, but there are so many options now.
Leaving them in a place where they feel tortured daily is NOT an option! However, if you make a change, there's a chance you could help them find their people. Everyone needs to feel like they belong, and for a lot of kids, the public school is not where that's at. Some kids may be quirky, and in a public school that could be seen as “nerdy” (and therefore get them teased), but in another school, they could be seen as super cool! Please help your kids find their tribe.
Are there guarantees?
What if your kids' family life is pretty solid, does this mean you're safe from tragedy? No way. No family is perfect, and from toddlers to teens, parenting is just HARD. Plus it's a difficult and much different world now. We can only do the best we can and ask God to fill in the holes for the rest.
What if you find out YOUR child is doing the bullying?
If it's your child who is mean sometimes it could be a sign of deeper family dysfunction and/or too much entitlement with that child, BUT I'll bet there are times where there are a couple of great parents who are just exasperated and wonder where in the world such darkness in their child came from. How difficult that would be!
Either way, I'd pull their butts out of that situation and fast. You can't be a decent human being? Then you don't get to be with your friends (who likely feed their need for affirmation and attention around the bullying). So again: there's homeschool, another school, online school or whatever. Be sure to do this with love, so they know that it is because you want the best for them; make sure they understand that it is NOT good for them to hurt others, it will put a deep mark on their souls, and you just won't allow it, but you love them and want to help them find a place where they are safe and where others are safe. (Here's where you could talk to them about asking for forgiveness if they're ready…)
SO many different situations…
There are many many different ways all of this can play out, so all you can do, no matter what side of the mess your child is on, is to pray like crazy, talk to your kids a LOT, and try to figure out the best way through. No one fix will work for all, but if you're in your child's corner, and they see you going to bat for them, that will speak volumes into their heart. They'll know they are heard, and that they can come to you.
A reader friend sent me an article for what she thinks is a good solution:
No entity can do anything meaningful (more than is presently being done) to thwart a disaffected person hell-bent on committing such an act.
But you can.
You can talk to your co-worker for a few minutes. You can talk to the kid in your Physics class that appears to be all alone. You can teach your children to do the same, to make sure no one is left to feel totally isolated. Because that’s the breeding ground. That’s where the seeds are planted.”
I can't say I totally agree with this, because unfortunately, I don't think people will DO it. Oh some will try to notice who is isolated and engage them, but not many. 🙁 This reader also shared a bit of her own story:
I am a parent of children who have been taunted and put down at school and we worry constantly about them. For some reason our society’s youth have gotten onto this kick of feeling that everyone needs to respond to the corporate marketing machine in the same way, and if you don’t have all the name brand clothing and branded shoes you have less value than those that do. There is so much emphasis on the package, and the poor child’s heart and soul are being lost in the marketing myth.
Other students don’t want to stand up to the bullies so they either say nothing or joke along with the bully, laughing uncomfortably perhaps, but still laughing, I’m sure the students don’t realize how hurtful this is, or perhaps they are making a decision to protect themselves from the bully by jumping on board with the hurtfulness…but either way it heartbreaking.
That article broke my heart to think about how sad and alone this girl felt, and how society failed her. I can't imagine how devastated her parents must be. They are so brave to share this with us.
The adolescent years have always been a difficult time for children, but it seems to be worse now. It almost seems that some of the children doing the bullying don't realize how hurtful they are. I think it would be great to get this out there and ask the parents to read it, maybe even read and discuss with their children. Then they could ask their children if they fit into either category…the child being demeaned and hurt, or the child doing the demeaning, perhaps not even realizing how hurtful their words are? Do they see others being mistreated this way? How do they react? What other things might they do instead?
I thought a discussion about how harmful these sort of actions are could go a long way. I don’t think the bullies intend for someone to actually commit suicide, they just want the rush of having power over others, but the consequences are still the same regardless. Perhaps parents just taking some time to discuss this issue with their children is a step in the right direction.”
Please do this with your kids!
Talking with your kids about this stuff is so important — build compassion into their hearts, try your best to make sure that YOUR kid is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Teach them that we are here on this earth for a reason, and we may not know specifically what it is right now, but for SURE being kind and helpful to our fellow man is a HUGE part of it, making a difference in the lives of those around us means everything! Loving those who are sometimes not easy to love. Being kind when it's not easy. Stepping up to care for those who look sad or alone.
Here's what I say all the time nowadays: Anyone can be kind to those who are kind to us. Anyone can be a “good person” when life is going well. But what if you're backed into a corner, NOW what will you do? What if no one will ever know, NOW who are you?
Wow, doesn't all of this just make your heart hurt? What do YOU think is the solution?
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