Bullying – a word used loosely most of the time. But do we really know what true bullying is? According to www.stopbullying.gov, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” Bullying can come in many forms, such as name calling, teasing and taunting, spreading rumors about someone, embarrassing someone in public, hitting, spitting, stealing someone’s things, etc. Of course, cyberbullying takes things to a whole new level.
As concerned citizens, neighbors, friends and parents, we need to accept the harsh reality that bullying DOES happen, and it’s happening in OUR community. And although studies show that traditional bullying starts at middle school age, there is an alarming trend showing aggressive behaviors beginning younger and younger.
Recently, we had the opportunity to meet an 11-year-old child who bravely shared their experience of being bullied throughout fourth and fifth grade. As parents, we hung on every word – baffled. The scenarios the child described were heartbreaking. Name calling. Rumors. Shoving in school hallways. And ultimately, the unthinkable – the elementary-aged aggressor harassed the child by breaking into the child’s home.
And equally heartbreaking was the fact that this child felt they “couldn’t” tell their parents about the bullying.
When asked why, the child sheepishly explained, “I don’t know why, but I guess I thought I might get in trouble.”
Suggested Graphic To Callout: Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.
The child’s mother sat across the table as we spoke. She told us she had noticed changes in her child’s grades and overall demeanor. Given their very close relationship, she consistently asked her child, “Is everything all right at school? Is there anything we should talk about?”
Despite inserting herself and making herself available on multiple occasions, her child still didn’t share what was going on. The bullying continued (and progressed) and eventually the child did speak up – but not to Mom. Not to Dad. Rather, the child told their best friend – a fellow fourth grader. The best friend’s mother was then confided in, and she quickly notified the child’s mother. And so started their journey toward intervention. And what a long journey it would be.
The mother learned that a neighbor and classmate had been harassing her child for an extended period of time. The once-friend had become verbally abusive toward her child and, worse yet, had manipulated other children to partake, at which point the bullying turned physical. Threats were made toward the child’s younger brother (also elementary-school age) if the child were to tell anyone. This ultimately ensured secrecy as perceived protection.
Although it was difficult to hear (and accept), the child’s mother took appropriate action immediately. She engaged her child in the process, giving her a voice to be a “victor,” not a victim. Her willingness to be interviewed for the purpose of this very article demonstrates this family’s commitment toward a positive change.
We asked the child, “Do you see bullying happen a lot to others?” Without hesitation, the child replied “Yes” with an affirming head nod.
Did You Know: Statistics show that 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools, and 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying.
Did You Know: In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4-12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once.
Did You Know: 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month, and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.
We asked, “Do you think bullying can be stopped?” Again, a confident “Yes” reply, with an optimistic smile as the child added, “And I want to do fundraisers to help raise money to stop bullying.”
Did You Know: When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
And finally, the question we, as parents, were desperate to answer, “What would’ve helped you to stop being bullied?” The child declared, “Speaking up. Not to be shy about it.” And added, “My mom always says God gave us all a voice, so let’s use that voice to speak up. When you speak up, you’ll be free!” Brave words from a mighty brave kid!
What Can We Learn From This?
As parents, wouldn’t we want to know why aren’t schools doing more to stop bullying in its tracks? Why are parents not recognizing when their kids are the bullies? Or when their kids are the ones being bullied?
We imagined our own children in the scenarios which were described. Would our children have told?
We can honestly say that before meeting this family and hearing their story, we would’ve confidently declared, “YES! Of course, my children would tell me.” But the time spent with this sweet child and mom had us thinking otherwise.
As parents, we want to believe our children would tell us if someone was bothering them. But would they? And if not, why not?
(5 Reasons – see link)
Communication is the key. We must start speaking up! Speaking up is a big deal!!! I know we all talk to our kids about it, but they are still not speaking to us. If they are not speaking to us, for whatever reason, let’s build relationships with safe adults around them with whom they would feel more comfortable talking.
This 11-year-old child chose to confide in their best friend and the best friend’s mother before talking to their own mom, even though their relationship is super close and positive.
It takes a village to keep our kids safe!!! Let’s build a village where our children are safe, and where we know that if our child is in any danger, there are other trustworthy adults in their lives.
It all begins with speaking up! Open the conversation in your own home and community and let’s see what happens!
Source: Statistics obtained from www.StopBullying.com