Beating the Bullies

A slight departure from the normal today

“It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

In the news recently has been the tragic death of Amanda Todd I don’t want to go into the details of her passing here or talk about the specifics of her case though I will touch on certain aspects.  Rather I want to talk about the power of words.

I am the mother of a daughter who was bullied in school, and as much as I taught her to ignore those who bullied her it was not always possible especially once the bullying became physical rather than verbal.

We writers craft our stories with the wealth of language we have at our disposal, our words have the power to make the reader laugh or cry.  But sadly I often think that many children today do not get taught the power words can have for good or bad.  They throw insults and curses without real cause never stopping to think about how they may be received.  Likewise they are quick to find insult where none is intended and the reactions are frequently out of control leading to physical responses to the slightest imagined slur.  Even as adults we can overreact to situations but usually we have the skills and confidence to address the situation and the maturity to apologise.

Words only have the power we allow them to have and is a lesson we need to teach our children.  The old adage of sticks and stones still holds true to an extent.  People cannot hurt you unless you allow them to, being called names is not pleasant of course but it is possible to rise above it.  We need to teach them there is life beyond those small-minded people who hurl insults that no matter what they think there are others out there who will listen and not judge, and we must also remind our own children to take those playground rumours they hear for what they are and not to get drawn into false belief or spreading the rumours.  We need to give those who are picked upon their own words of power, not that they become embroiled in the escalation of hate but that they can see through it and know that this will not always be.  Teach them about ignorance and real fear, not that words can hurt the but those who throw the hurtful comments do so from their own inadequacies and need to feel better about themselves by putting down others, teach them to pity those who have no one who cares enough to teach them a better way to be.   We need to teach all children the real meaning of friendship because a true friend will tell you when you are out-of-order and direct you along a better path not egg you on to hurt others without caring about the consequences.

Schools can only do so much it really is down to parents to instill into their children a sense of empathy and compassion the really tragic thing is those most in need of this are the ones least likely to receive it. For these there needs to be someone to step in be it a family member, a teacher or neighbour.  And for the parents who fail there must also be consequences, it is our job as parents to know what our children are doing, to say I did not now is unacceptable. It is always the child who suffers for the parents failure to act or in some cases care.  In the Amanda Todd case there were Facebook messages over a period of time yet it would seem none of the parents were stepping in to stop what was being posted to or from their children’s account?  I had full access to my daughters Facebook until she turned sixteen, in truth I still do, but I logged on until that age and checked her account regularly.  I regret criticizing people at what is the hardest time they will ever face but much of what happened in Amanda’s case could have been prevented had someone stepped in earlier.  We had a case here in the UK recently where a child was abducted and is still missing but the thing now one wants to question out loud is why a five-year old girl was out playing at seven-thirty pm in the dark, the truth is sadly while parents may love their children they do not always take responsibility for them until tragedy strikes.  Those who bullied Amanda may not feel remorse now at her death but as they get older the weight of that guilt will come to rest on their shoulders and if it does not what influence will they in turn be to their own children?  Do their parents feel shame that their child contributed to the death of someone elses baby? We have a duty to teach each child not only right from wrong but to ensure what we teach is practised, we need to remember we are not their friends we are the parent, it is not an easy job and not one they will thankyou for, well not until they are grown.

Of all the words that have power there is one above all they must be taught and that is respect, to respect themselves, to respect others and to respect that respect is not judged by how you are treated but how you treat others.  And if Amanda was still here I would have shared one other with her which would have been perspective, a young girl she made mistakes, mistakes which others should have stepped in to correct (I believe the police were aware this man had the pictures of her boobs, as a parent I would not have let it rest until this man was prosecuted) but I would have told her in the grand scheme of things this was not the worst mistake she would ever make in life, that yes the picture would always be out there but that she would not always be that picture, that she could have been so much more, I would have shown her pictures from around the world to show her she would not always be in a place where small-minded people could not see past the flesh exposed by a child craving affection in the wrong places.

I am not a perfect parent, I am human and made mistakes.  I do not know the answers only that unless we change the way the younger generation view the power of words there will be more Amanda’s sat alone believing the negative without ever knowing that the world is so much bigger than those who wish them harm.

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20 comments on “Beating the Bullies

  1. So true, and wonderfully stated Paula. The truth is the words that we must be their parents first, and not their friends, are so very true. This, if we chose to bring children into the world, is our GREATEST job…parent them. Day and night, home or away, makes not difference. Such a sad case, and yes, a preventable one, which makes it all the sadder.

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  2. A powerful post. Bullying is getting out of control these days. I hope all victims can find their voice and I hope they can seek help. Bullies need to stop and to be stopped.

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  3. I’m glad that so many are picking up on Amanda’s story and coming forward with their own experiences and thoughts.

    I do agree that words are a lot easier to ignore than actions, but words still hurt. I still find some words and phrases highly triggering.

    I wish that my mother had stood up to the school the way you did. She just told me to hit them back if anybody hit me, as if resorting to violence could possibly make everything go away.

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  4. How very sad. I think schools need to be re empowered to do more ( certainly parents too.) Discipline for children seems to have disappeared and they so desperately need it. Children aren’t adults, teens aren’t adults and they need consequences, they need adults to be adults. Such a tragic thing for everyone involved.

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  5. What you said is so true? I am an over protective parent of a 13 year old son. I am constantly looking over his shoulder when he is on Facebook. I am a children’s minister and I am constantly teaching this concept because several of the parents are not teaching their children compassion or even manners. I find myself taking the parent roll with most of them. What’s sad is their parents don’t even seem to get it. I totally agree with you that school can only do so much especially when some parents just refuse to do what they need to do at home. Thanks for the post it was awesome and needed…

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  6. Paula, this is the best non-writing related post that I’ve read in a long time. Splendid. I’m sending this off in as many directions as I can. I have a 16 year old son who has never had a problem about taking care of himself – but he still had problems with stuff other students said to him at school and elsewhere. Can’t tell you how many times I had to reinforce the “sticks and stones” story (a bit modernized, but still basically the same). It’s reached epidemic proportions, and seems to have escalated alongside the overall rise in violence in kids today. I, at 55, have heard teens say things to each other that might have gotten you killed in the days in which I grew up. I’m not shrinking violet, and as an ex-Marine, know a few choice ones myself, but the casual air with which these youngsters toss around f-bombs and so on is truly alarming.
    GREAT post….:)

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  7. I agree that parents and teachers and any involved adults need to be more aware. Parents should keep a check on their children social networks and their phones , never mind privacy sometimes a sledgehammer is needed! Children who are bullies and are left unchecked grow into bullying adults, while those who are bullied often spend their whole lives being bullied or they turn into vengefull angry unbalanced adults some even becoming bullies themselves.
    I am a mother of three all long grown and left home I did my best to keep an eye on their friends and enemies, they had problems but we got through them all.
    I was bullied as a child by my piers and by the nuns who taught me. I did not want to upset my Mum so when she arranged for me to go home at lunch times I pretended the situation was solved. She had spoken to the nuns who did nothing and as they were bullying me too there was no hope of help from them. My brothers and sisters were all much older than me and those who still lived at home were not at school already out at work!
    I was alone and on my own. I survived thanks to doggedness I married very young and had three boys I have a controlling husband but I know how to handle him now. He actually would be appalled to read this and would deny he is controlling…… lets say there is only black and white in his eyes no grey no shades.
    I think I have never really recovered from bullying , it even followed me a little in the work place. I would still be unsettled if I saw any of the bullies. I was friendly once with a lovely girl but I discovered she was the older sister of one of my tormentors and I was terrified I might have to see her. Luckily we move away and I grew stronger.
    Yes we as adults must look after and teach the young that bullying is evil and it can kill not only the person being bullied but the souls of those who bully and some of the bullied who survive.
    Here is one of the poems I have written on the subject about my experience. http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/its-nothing-less-than-abuse-2/
    I was so moved yesterday by Mrs Tribble’s post I wrote another about cyber bullying . http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/2966/
    I am sorry for this long ramble I did not plan to say so much but I think I needed to once I started.Be well and happy .

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    • I have to be honest it was something I hadn’t intended on posting on but I read some comments being made suggesting that Amanda brought her bullying on herself and it got my back up so I went and watched the video and read comments on the various versions of it and i was so angry that this poor girl had been failed so many times by so many different people that I needed to say something if one person out there who is being bullied one day finds this post and finds strength from it then Amanda’s death will not have been in vain

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  8. Great post Paula 🙂

    My son was bullied quite badly at school, to the point where I refused to send him. The school was useless and the whole thing ended up with my son getting a police caution because one day he snapped and retaliated 😦 I’m just so glad that part of his life is over now, for all of us!

    But, I agree, it’s the parents who are the issue here. Our school told us (and we saw evidence of it) that a lot of the parents (of the bullying children) really couldn’t care less as to what their kid got up to 😦 I would have hung drawn and quartered one of mine if I ever found out they were bullying!

    Xx

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  9. Both my children have had to deal with bullies, so I know where you’re coming from. As a result I am hyper-vigilant with what they do outside of school, as well as in school. If parents don’t show involvement from step one, then they lose that much more control. Most bullies will stop if they’re confronted immediately. The longer they bully, the more daring and confident they become. And the victim becomes weaker. Great post.

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  10. We have such a problem today, it is epidemic. What do we do though when we see adults in the highest offices of the land acting like petulant children, how do we teach our children to act with compassion and empathy?

    This was beautifully written Paula.

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