United We Stand; Divided We Fall

You are no better than anyone out there and nobody out there is better than you.”This is one of my favorite sayings, taught to me by my father many years back. I find myself repeating this phrase often, in times when someone is putting another down, is judging someone, is acting superior to others, is being a bully, or is condescending. It’s a phrase that emphasizes equality and teaches humility. Without equality there is an imbalance.  Where there is imbalance there is no justice.

There are many questions that arise and there are many people who become involved in every bullying scenario. You may be asking yourself, how do we stop bullying from taking place in our schools? Is it the parent’s job to teach compassion? Is it the teacher’s responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen in their classrooms? Is it the school counselor’s job to find out what is behind the need to bully? Is it the vice principles job to discipline every incident that occurs? Is it the principles job to create a no tolerance policy? It takes everyone, coming together as a team, working towards the same cause, dedicated to the cessation of bullying.

Most schools have addressed the issue of bullying by putting into place an, “Anti Bullying Policy.”  However, most schools know that bullying does still occur in their schools. On May 12th 2010, Governor Jim Doyle signed Senate Bill 154, which required school districts that did not already have bullying policies, to either craft one, or adopt a model policy offered by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction has an abundance of resources for developing “safe and respectful” schools. The website is: http://dpi.wi.gov/sspw/safeschool.html There are also two state laws that cover bullying in Wisconsin; Statutes 118.3, which is the policy that prohibits pupil discrimination and Wisconsin Statutes 118.46. which is the policy on bullying.

Clearly the state of Wisconsin recognizes the seriousness of bullying within our school systems and is making efforts to outline effective school guidelines.

Parents however, do not have a guideline on how to help their children when they’ve been bullied, and thus are often at a loss for answers. They may first notice changes in their child’s behavior at home and not know what to attribute it to. Some common symptoms parents may notice are the following; lack of appetite, isolation, sadness, anxiety, short temperament, lack of interest in previous hobbies, skipping school and even cutting. Seeing these new symptoms often sends parents on a search for answers. Unfortunately, as a result of the shame that comes along with being victimized, children often do not reveal that they are being bullied. Children often feel ashamed that they are not stronger, more popular, or able to stand off the attacks. They may fear intimidation and retaliation if they tell the school or parents. A bullied child’s self-esteem often plummets; they question their abilities, at times turning their feelings inward and even hating themselves. The isolation feeds their despair and the negative feelings multiply, eventually creating a fear that the bullying will never end. In the most severe and persistent bullying cases, the bullied child may turn to suicide, in a desperate attempt to make it all go away.

If we are aware of the conditions that breed bullies, and are aware of the signs in identifying potential bullies, we have the collective ability to prevent children from turning into future bullies. One precursor of children that bully others is an unstable home life. Children, whom are neglected, mistreated, witness violence in their home or have unpredictable home lives, often take their feelings to school with them. The negative energy that they’ve absorbed in their home life is taken out on their peers at school. These children and their families would greatly benefit from changing the unhealthy family dynamics. However, bullies do not only originate from unsettled homes; bullies can also cultivate after they themselves have been bullied. This is a child’s way to retaliate, to get revenge, and to feel strong again. These children need help finding a healthy outlet for their anger, hurt, and resentments. Involving these children in anti-bullying events, where they can tell their story, is a way for them to express their feelings in a healthy way that also helps others.  Some of the signs to look at when evaluating if your child is a bully are the following; they may be disrespectful at home, have a hard time following rules or direction, become easily frustrated, have friends who bully others, get excited about violence, and have little parental involvement. Being aware of these behaviors, reaching out to your child and to his school would be crucial steps in getting your child the help he or she needs. Help put an end to the violence.

The effects of being bullied hits a child on many levels; it can affect a child’s social life, their physical safety, it affects them psychologically and it affects their ability to focus in their academics. The more support a bullied child gets the better. Therapy is helpful to teach children self-confidence, self-understanding, self-respect and appropriate response and coping. Help is needed to encourage them to have a voice again.

Lets all do our part in the battle against bullying. Keep your eyes pealed for signs, engage in conversations with children, and be an advocate in ending the torment.

Take care and respect one another.