Bullying has been a topic in the news a lot lately. In my own community, a teen named Amanda Todd is making headlines, a bully target that sadly ended her life because she couldn’t take it anymore. Her tragic video tells her story. By no means should suicide by glorified in this way, but I have to admit I am very glad that these public cases open up the lines of communication on the topic of treating each other with more kindness.
Bullying comes in all forms. We have all met a schoolyard bully, or worked with someone that made our life a living hell. As adults, the way we deal with bullies that intimidate in the workplace that tend to be our bosses is usually we tend to leave. Easy enough to do and move onto a happier place.
However, it’s a different story with children. They cannot just get up and change schools, decide to leave the house to avoid their mom’s friend’s kid that comes over with him to torment her and name-call. That’s why it is so important as parents that we recognize the signs of bullying that encourage our kids to open up about their feelings to take action – before it’s too late.
Bullying starts at a very young age in some cases. My toddler has been a victim of my friend’s toddler bully at age 2 years. Although she was driven to tears, his parents did not correct his behaviour. In fact, his older sisters called him a bully as well; He pushed down kids down to the ground repeatedly, stole their toys out of their hands, poke them repeatedly, disobey all authority while acting out physically. Perhaps he will outgrow this behaviour in time, but if he doesn’t – who is responsible? Are the parents to blame for not stepping in?
It only gets worse as kids get older. When there is limited supervision, the typical bully will steal your belongings and/or pick fights, an especially common things for boys but becoming much more common for girls. If they are a girl bully, it unfortunately plays out mainly with psychological abuse. The mean girl(s) resort to verbal weapons – backstabbing, badmouthing, lying – anything to isolate usually female victims. Kids are often afraid to report this abuse so the cycle can continue.
As parents, it is hard to imagine living in this day and age as a teen in the online world. It’s so much harder because of cyberbullying. You cannot bury your head in the sand and run away from problems as easily as we could….if you move to a different area, your past can still follow you for better or worse online. The Internet, texting, and other modern communication gadgets make this an exciting time to be a teenager, but also a scary one. Not to sound overly paranoid, but we have seen in the media how small actions in behaviour that we would like to remain private can go viral, such as the guy who took his life after he was filmed by a roommate with another gay man. In this day and age, you must choose your friends wisely and keep your enemies – and frenemies – closer than ever.
I worry about protecting my kids from the online world. Facebook, Twitter, texting – they can all do damage to a young person’s psyche that can carry with them into adulthood. In fact, that is a part of the reason I do not post photos of my children or compromise their identity here. I think about what kind of electronic trail will following them their whole lives. Some may say I am overprotective, but it’s a tough world and it is my responsibility to help make life easier for them in the long run.
Overall, it is so important to talk to your kids about bullying both so they talk to you if they feel victimized, but also so they do not become a bully themselves. Parents cannot dismiss this behaviour as a right of passage growing up. It should never be tolerated under any circumstances. I grew up believing that bullies rarely amount to anything great later in life because they never learned the value of respecting others and their opinions. I have seen that to be the case with many of them with the passage of time. I only hope for those victims experiencing this horrible abuse now that the saying what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger, holds true. It is up to us as parents to teach them this.