Experience is a great teacher. You learn lessons and you celebrate wins. I pride myself in being an open person who shares some of the obstacles that I overcame in my life’s journey. One of them is bullying. What is bulling? Teasing, harassing, instigating physical altercations, intimidating, cyber-bullying – these are all examples of bullying. And the impact can extend psychologically into the adult years. In light of October being National Bullying Prevention Month, I’ve decided to share my childhood story to be of inspiration to someone…anyone:
When I attended middle school, I was the only little girl in my class that wore shabby braids, bushy eyebrows and an obvious overbite. So obvious that I couldn’t even close my mouth. Not to mention that smack dab in the middle of my two front teeth was a huge gap. That combination made me an easy target.
I dreaded school. I would walk in the classroom with knots in my stomach because the same three boys ridiculed me almost every day. I was the butt of their jokes and the rest of the class didn’t restrain their laughter. Each roast got worse and worse. The more the class laughed, the more the bullies were encouraged to continue. I was utterly humiliated.
I would get headaches from trying to hold back my emotions. The armpits to my shirts had big rings of sweat. I could feel the deodorant running down my arms. So much so that I would go home with dry white lines on my forearms from sweating with nervousness. And worse, I developed skin rashes from all the stress.
Every time I told my mom how I felt like I was being tortured, I always received the same response – “Just ignore them and they’ll stop”. Well, that did happen, but it wasn’t until I reached high school. Then, it took on the form of isolation.
If you’ve never been bullied, then you don’t understand how significant that statement is. Your child needs your protection. Your child needs your rescuing. Your child needs your help.
From my own personal experience, I gave my son a few tips if he ever encountered these circumstances: 1.) Tell his teacher as soon as it happens. 2.) Tell me as soon as he gets home. 3.) Stand up for himself if it happens, again. The only way the last part will work is if you empower your child with enough courage and confidence that he or she will defend themselves against aggressors.
Now, for you as the parent – If your child ever tells you he or she is being bullied, here are 3 tips:
1.) Talk to the Teacher
You should connect with the teacher immediately to discuss what your child has shared with you. Get the teacher’s side and ask what she did to resolve it (ask your child, too). Then ask what the plan of action is in case the incident occurs, again. Let the teacher know that you not only want her to speak to the other student, but also the parent. Follow up with the teacher and hold her accountable. Write down everything (including time and date). Let your child know that you spoke with the teacher and to let you know if the behavior from the bully persists. In addition, your child will need every bit of emotional and psychological support during this journey.
2.) Hold a Conference with the Principal, Superintendent, and Even Administration Board (if necessary)
If the bullying persists, then the next call-to-action is speaking with the Principal, Superintendent, and, possibly, Administration. This definitely needs to be a face-to-face conversation in which you let them know what steps were already taken. Now, you are demanding disciplinarian action for the other child. Possibly request your child (or the other child) to change classes as an attempt for relief.
Also, it may be time to take your child to counseling because bullying creates deep wounds (as a matter of fact, I speak on the topic of the impacts of childhood bullying as an adult). The counselor or therapist is a trained professional and should report anything necessary through the proper channels.
3.) Report the School
If nothing has been done and/or the bullying persists, it is time to report the school. I’ve even known parents to transfer schools altogether due to the deep impact it had on their children. Research the office, organization, or agency responsible for your school district and meet with them to discuss what actions have (and have not) taken place. Make sure you have copies of everything in hand, including notes from the counselor. Continue to encourage your child and let him know you are doing everything in your power to bring him relief regarding this issue.
I am excited to see celebrities and networks joining in the movement for anti-bullying (Live with Kelly and Ryan and Cartoon Network’s collaboration with Dove for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, to name a couple). One of my collaborations is with PACER, a non-profit organization for bullying prevention. For resources and more information about bullying and bullying prevention, please go to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center at PACER.org/Bullying.
As mentioned earlier, bullying can impact a child’s self-esteem into their adulthood or even cause them to enter a state of depression and have thoughts of suicide. Our children need to see that we are advocating on their behalf and keeping them safe.
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Until next time….
Your Partner in Success,