Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Please Define Bullying

Bullying (verb): use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

The boy's school has a very strict policy on bullying and for the most part, it works. They also go to a very diverse public school, so that may play into this a bit. The boys can carry a purple backpack without a worry and can be themselves with no judging. Maybe we're blessed with a good school or maybe the anti-bullying movement at the school is working (accompanied by excellent faculty and staff I might add).

Lately however I've been questioning the anti-bullying message they're giving kids. One mom fretted: "My six year old was told by a boy in his class that wearing a pink shirt made him a girl. He told me who it was that said this. Should I talk to the parents or contact the principle and school district directly? This bullying has to stop." I about spit out my Pumpkin Spice Latte right there and had to contain my laughter.

I wasn't aware that was bullying. I'm pretty sure that's a kid speaking what they observe. Kids can be asses to each other....just as adults can. I politely told the mom to teach her kid to stick up for themselves and don't worry about being judged. Teach them to just be themselves. She wasn't a fan of that comment. She wanted someone's head hung for the "bullying." Later that day I realized it wasn't only parents who have played into the anti-bullying movement.

The boys came home from school and informed me they were being bullied on their way home. My stomach was in knots as I asked them what happened.

"There was a kid we were walking home with who told us 'na-na boo boo, stick your head in doo doo.' We should probably tell the counselor tomorrow which kid it was." Once again I had to control my laughter. Does anyone else remember when this was "playground talk" and not bullying? Maybe I'm old school to not see this as a form of bullying, however I am worried what our children are learning. They're missing out on the developing thicker skin and dealing with criticism aspect of life. 

I'm absolutely NOT saying that bullying is okay. I'm simply saying that there's a big difference between kids picking on each other and true bullying. Yes, there is a line. Some kids can take more than others. However I do not feel it teaches our children anything when any negative comment made to them is taken straight to the top. It leaves them unable to deal with any situation, good or bad, themselves.

Similar to what I told the mom in Mom's Group, I told them there's always going to be someone saying something negative, something mean, something they don't like. Ignore the negative; just be yourself; if you don't like something, walk away. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself. If things get out of hand or seriously have you worried, tell a trust person (parent, teacher, counselor, neighbor, etc.). I DO want them to feel comfortable enough to talk to me when something is upsetting them. I want them to feel comfortable enough to tell a teacher if someone really is bullying them. 

I am not oblivious to the fact that many, too many, schools have severe bullying issues. There are lines that should not be crossed and require intervention. I also know that kids are not being taught how to deal with these situations anymore. I believe the big issue comes down to how one defines bullying. I think my defining line is a bit pushed back than others, mostly because my kids tend not to care what others think and do as they please regardless.

How do you define bullying? How does your children's school define bullying?