For which ever reason my previous post about Bullying got reblogged yesterday and provoked some additional thoughts in me. When writing the last one I did not mention that I was bullied as well as a child. But then I guess it was kind of more innocent than what goes on nowadays.
I have stated before that for me there are two kind of bullies: The one who bullies to defend himself (or herself) and the one who is just plain mean. I feel it is important to split them up in those two groups as they are driven in a different way.
The bully who only bullies to sort of defend himself is not mean, it is just some sort of a reflex triggered by feeling cornered. They usually stop and when approached realize what they are doing wrong. The other one thought is just mean, and loves to see someone suffer. They thrive on hurting others and will not stop. Those are the ones who in my eyes deserve to be punished.
Now I’ve mentioned that as a child I suffered from “bullying” too. I am still not sure if I want to call it bullying as I feel that it was not as rough as it might be nowadays. See, I am a red head. And I grew up in a small town all the way in the back of a little valley in Switzerland. Most of the people living there were farmers, who also worked as ski instructors in winter. We were different. My dad has an amazing story. One of those child from a poor family who meets the right people at the right time, takes his chances, works hard and makes a fortune kind of stories. Besides that he got married to a woman who could have been his daughter age wise. And I was born before they got married…
So let me quickly put that all in one sentence: I was a bastard (that is what kids born outside of marriage were still called back then) from an old guy and a young woman, with a rich dad and red hair. In short: Very different to everybody else.
I heard a lot about my young mom (they never mentioned my dad, as he was a local who earned himself heaps of respect and stayed true to himself, so nobody dared to say a bad word about him) who had a baby before getting married. I got teased for living in a nice house. I got teased for the car my parents were driving (and everyone ignored the fact that most of the people in this town were driving the same model…). I got teased for being able to go away during the summer holidays. And I got teased for my red hair.
All things I simply could not change. Well, besides the color of my hair… And I remember who I approached my mom’s hair dresser one day and asked her when I would be old enough to color my hair. Now you need to know that this lady colored her hair red and back then the only artificial red hair color you could have looked exactly like that: Totally fake! Too bright.
So she looked at me and I guess she did not know what to say, which was very unusual… After a moment she stops what she was doing, turns towards me and looks deep in my eyes. I’ve never ever heard her talk so calmly but yet with so much seriousness.
“Don’t let them get to you. All of them, every single one of them are jealous. Jealous for something they can never have. You have the most amazing hair color ever. And they all want that. You should see how many women walk into here and want me to color their hair exactly the way your hair is and they actually tell me that they want YOUR color. So you go out there and be proud and rock that hair!”
And that is exactly what I did. And whenever someone started teasing me again about the color of my hair I just smiled. I did not say anything because there was just no need for it. But I knew deep in my heart that this color was all they wanted and just could not get.
The teasing stopped. At least most of it. They still annoyed me with their ‘jokes’ about me going away over summer. But I got to the point where it did not matter. I had my friend who was amazing and we are still close. And in order to to college I had to swap school and to to another village where I was just another kid.
I guess kids teasing kids is sort of a normal thing, something that just needs to be done in order to grow up. What is not okay is taking it too far. Pushing to far, pushing to the point where someone gets hurt, mentally or physically. And what is definitely not okay is how often grown ups just watch.
Recently I’ve heard so many stories from friends about their kids and the bullying in school. Some of them I would just say wait and it will be fine again. You know, kind of normal teasing situations. But then there is stuff going on that is not okay. Things that make me happy again about our decision to home-school our kids. What most of those stories had in common was the lack of support the kids (and the parents who tried to do something) got from their schools. Teachers who said that the kids have to toughen up, Principals who actually say that this particular girl is using it as an excuse for not participating in class properly. Everyone who knows that girl also knows that she wants to participate. But she is just kind of paralyzed by what is happening out of class. She is scared to death about saying anything the bully could use to get to her afterwards. Bullshit like that. And it worries me and it makes me angry and I just don’t understand it. It is crazy that parents have to swap school in order to get their kids out of this vicious cycle. It is crazy that behavior of a bully gets protected.
What does that teach those kids who bully? It just tells them that they will get away. And that is what they take on board. No wonder there are grown up people out there who feed on bullying others.
There is the other extreme nowadays as well, where schools go to far with regulating what happens on their grounds. I have heard from schools who cancelled certain breaks, or play times in order to prevent their students from being bullied. I wonder if that is the right approach. After all, you can not watch over those kids the entire day they are in your custody. I have heard of schools that take extreme actions to get on top of the issue and punish the kids who are involved in maybe only a little bit of teasing too hard.
But how can you find the right way? How can you make sure you stay on top of it without getting too extreme? Where do we over protect our kids and where do we not do enough? It is that crazy fine line again…
The shocking part is, that it seems to kind of get out of hand. It seems to get worse and worse. And of course the social network and the dependence of it does not make it easier. People don’t want to quit Facebook because they fear to loose touch with their “friends”. There is no more escape form being bullied once it goes viral. It is out of control. And that is the scary part. In my days it happened on the school ground and the school ground only. Maybe on a sports field. But you could go home and close the door and you would be fine. You were able to move and you were fine. This option does not exist any longer.
So I wonder what the punishing will actually do. I wonder if punishing should be more like educating about the effects bullying can have. But then, again, it depends on the person you punish / educate as well. The bully, who bullies because he got teased and just feels cornered and wants to break out of it will understand and will learn and will move on. The mean bully though will probably feed from this again and use what ever he takes out of it to be even more destructive.
Look where we already are. Teenagers get pushed to the point where they commit suicide. Young kids, even before they reach their teenage years, become more and more suicidal. Although it is said that most of those kids have some sort of mental illness, they also state that those kids are most likely victim of all kind of abuse. Bullying = Abuse…
Victims of bullying can no longer escape. And even if you get through your childhood okay, you might end up suffering of bullying later in your life. I am not sure if it is still called mobbing, but I guess you can call it bullying as well. It is out there and we are not immune to it, just because we got out of school okay. And it is harsh, and it does not stop. And people seem to be okay to walk over dead bodies to get to where they want to be.
What a sad place.
I don’t want my kids to get to the point where they become as cold as some of those who are out there. I want them to have values and respect. And I want them to see that in a team and with a team you can actually get further then on your own. But a team is only a team if there is mutual respect. And I guess that is the issue. There is a general lack of respect out there.
So all we can do is teach morals and hope that our kids will understand that there are people out there who might not live by the same values as they do. We need to teach them to be strong enough to shake it off and move on. And I guess we also need to make sure they know how dangerous the social networks can be.
I really struggle finding a positive note to end this post. You know that it’s something I always try to do. But this really bothers me as I feel it is so totally out of our control.
All this bullying is such a waste of time. A waste of time for the bully, a waste of time for the victim and a waste of time for everyone who has to deal with it. Why does nobody realize this? Why not being more creative with that amount of time? Why not putting your energy into something meaningful? I really don’t get it.
And as it sometimes happen, a comment pops up which helps me find what I am looking for :-). Thank you Jcckeith for providing me with the positive ending I wanted for this post:
“The schools in this area are very interested in bullying and the teachers undergo training throughout the year on how to recognize problems in students, how to handle them in a positive way and so on. Many years ago, the middle school in my town had two girls commit suicide during different years and after that, the school system really cracked down on their policies and awareness. Recently, the local schools participated in this program: http://www.rachelschallenge.org/“