Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bullies: Inherently Mean or Morally Uneducated?

Stop Bullying Logo I found

bullyingpresent participle of bul·ly
Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

I wish I knew what makes mean kids tick.

What about the make up of a human being makes some kids overpower the weak or fragile?  Why do the tears and fears of a weaker child make some feel kids more powerful or superior?  Is this survival of the fittest gone terribly wrong?  Is it learned behavior or human nature?

Who is to blame?  Are some kids just inherently mean or do they just lack empathy?  Are their moral compasses broken or poorly calibrated?  Do the parents of these meanies know how they behave?  Do these parents give a damn?  Did their parents teach them this behavior through example?  Does this kid even realize what he is doing is wrong?!!

I realize there is a certain degree of competitiveness programmed into all of us.  This competitiveness has caused the human race to thrive in many respects, motivating man to organize and civilize to improve our lives.  The one-upsmanship inherent to being human makes us strive to do better and be better and want better.  We all strive to be the best we can be, but some do so at the expense of others' well-being.  Is our message to our kids to be their best getting skewed to be the best?  Is this need to be "better than" what makes mean kids keep pummeling their targets long after it is clear they are physically or socially in control?

If we are so freakin' civilized, why does this uncivilized behavior keep happening?

And why can't I protect my kids from these things?  Princess and Birdie already sense they are different from a lot of their peers and don't quite fit in most of the time, so why do they have to continually hear about it from their morally inept schoolmates?  The children at school that know my girls love and support them and are typically good pals.  What astonishes me-- devastates me to the point of tears-- is that many of the older students are the culprits of this picking and-- dare I say-- bullying of younger children.  These kids should know better!  Most of these kids will be targets in middle school, for various reasons, and the mean vindictive part of my mommy brain is horrifyingly gleeful about this!  I think to myself, lock them all together in one room and let Darwinism do the rest!  I secretly wish that some bigger, meaner, more mentally polluted child will crush them the way they crush my precious girls (and all their other victims, for that matter)... and then I take it all back.  Part of me wants to hate these mean children, but mostly I just feel sorry for them.

When I see a bullying child, I see a child that is much weaker (in many ways) than the child being victimized.  I see a kid who feels so small that he has to tear down others to feel big.  I see a kid whose parents need to show him boundaries and a positive example for how to be a good citizen.  I see a kid that needs to know that winning isn't everything.  I see a kid that craves parental love, support, and attention and will do anything to get it-- even if it means getting in trouble.  It's unfortunate, but some parents create bullies by not being moral educators for their kids-- by not guiding them through the impossibly difficult task of growing up.

Now, I'm not blaming all bullying on parents and their parenting, or lack thereof.  Our kids aren't with us all the time-- but they are still our responsibility.  Kids often learn from life/sports/reality tv/other kids that if you can't be the best, you need to be the meanest or the worst to survive.  Our kids need to hear from a respected adult that this isn't the truth.  We as parents can't rely solely on our kids' teachers and guidance counselors to teach them this lesson.  We have to do this ourselves!  WE HAVE TO BE PARENTS, NOT BYSTANDERS IN OUR CHILDREN'S LIVES.  We need to teach our kids to be friends, not foes.

That being said, I will step off my soapbox and give you some data...

Courtesy of Make Beats Not Beatdowns (MBNBD) <--click here to see the entire list

- It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association.
- American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center.
- 1 in 7 Students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
- 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
- 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school.
- 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
- 1 out of 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.
- 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
- Those in the lower grades reported being in twice as many fights as those in the higher grades. However, there is a lower rate of serious violent crimes in the elementary level than in the middle or high schools.
- 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying
- According to bullying statistics, 1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying.

These numbers are for typical students.  Some studies indicate that children on the autism spectrum or kids with other disabilities are as much as three times more likely to experience bullying.  At the very least, they are considerably more likely to fall victim of bullies, mainly because they make such delightfully noisy targets.  Kids on the spectrum are often provoked into meltdowns by peers with ill-intent simply because they get more bang for their buck-- more noise and less fighting back.

Autism Speaks, along with their partners, just released a Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit, full of resources and information specifically tailored to parents, educators, and students dealing with bullying and children with special needs.

Below is an excerpt from the Toolkit:
Alex Libby from the movie Bully
Top Ten Facts Parents, Educators and Students Need to Know:
1. The Facts - Students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.
2. Bullying affects a student's ability to learn.
3. The Definition - bullying based on a student's disability may be considered harassment.
4. The Federal Laws - disability harassment is a civil rights issue.
5. The State Laws - students with disabilities have legal rights when they are a target of bullying.
6. The adult response is important.
7. The Resources - students with disabilities have resources that are specifically designed for their situation.
8. The Power of Bystanders - more than 50% of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.
9. The importance of self-advocacy.
10. You are not alone.
Click here to read the Toolkit!

So, as a mother and educator, I propose a message of balance.  We should teach our kids to be their best AND help others be their best too.  No one is made stronger by making another appear weak.  Appreciate differences in others and learn from them.  Build up peers rather than tear them down.  Stand WITH those that cannot stand up for themselves.  And most importantly, teach these things by doing these things yourself!  Our kids remember very little of what we say, but everything we do!

How do you feel about bullying?  Have your children had any experiences?  According to statistics, they probably will.  What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Brought tears to my eyes. How did it get this way?!?