Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Frustration of Being Bullied

I feel compelled to share this posting from a mom whose child is being bullied (along with my response). She so clearly describes the frustrations encountered in attempting to help her child, and I'm sure her experiences will resonate for many of you. The more of us who speak out, the more likely change will occur. I encourage more of you to share your experiences, and I applaud this mom for sharing hers.

My child has been bullied from kindergarten until 6th grade. We did everything the school wanted us to do. We got counseling from the inschool counselor and she taught him ways to deal with bullies - "Tell the bully to stop doing that because you don't like it." Yeah, that is real effective. If he tells the teachers, then he gets tormented because of that. We also went to an outside counselor. It wasn't until he finally defended himself that kids stopped putting their hands on them, although they still use their words. So, I have a 13 year old that blocks out everything - using a defensive mechanism that we as adults use. Our school does have a bullying policy but I feel that it is totally ineffective. They can't do anything to the bullies unless they admit they are bullies. It's crazy.

I had been bullied as a child and although I am a better and stronger person because of it, it is still something that I will never forget. I continue to worry about my teenage son and if he is truly okay. And what scars bullying has left on him.

Thanks for continuing to educate society. Keep it up.

My response:

Thank you so much for sharing this. Every time I hear stories like yours and your son's I feel such a sense of frustration, yet every time someone like you has the courage to speak out, your words help wake people up.

If there's anything positive that can be gained from being bullied, it's the compassion that arises for others who are going through the same thing. Please tell your son that he can start being part of the solution to bullying by standing up for other kids, perhaps younger, who are being picked on. From the pain he's suffered he knows what it's like. If you can, guide him use the anger he may harbor to fuel his energy to stand up for others. He doesn't even have to confront to the person who's bullying -- instead, he can ask the kid who's being picked on to join him, and they can walk away together. He can also ask someone to partner up with him and be "upstanders" who say something to the person who's bullying.

Bullying stops in ten seconds, 57% of the time, when peers intervene on behalf of someone who's being picked on. And you don't have to do this alone. Practicing The Dignity Stance and rehearsing your words ahead of time helps a lot. Share The Dignity Stance with your son. It'll also empower him when kids say mean things to him:

The Dignity Stance

1. Stand tall with your head held high, feet apart, shoulders back.
2. Take slow deep breaths to keep your cool.
3. Keep your body language and facial expression neutral but strong.
4. Make direct eye contact.
5. Speak in a firm, steady tone of voice.
6. Walk away tall and strong.

(From No Kidding About Bullying by Naomi Drew, M.A., copyright 2010. Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. The above page may be reproduced for individual, classroom, or small group work only.)

Something else your son might consider is what a group of kids from Texas did -- they'd all been bullied, so they banded together and started a club in their school called STOP (Stop Tormenting Other People). They met with the school counselor and worked toward stamping out bullying. In the process discovered that there's power in numbers. Perhaps a sympathetic teacher or counselor could support your son and others in forming a group like this one.

Please stay in touch, and let us know how things go. Good luck to you, your son, and any other families who are touched by bullying

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