Many people think of bullying as a physical thing. Pushing, shoving, punching, even savage beatings recorded by so-called friends. It goes far beyond that. Mental and emotional bullying can be far more devastating, and in recent years this has drawn attention because of victims who commit suicide. They leave behind messages about what happened, and America expresses outrage. But what is really being done?
I was bullied as a child. Physical intimidation, name-calling, taunts, insults… all were daily occurrences throughout my school years. In 5th grade I was even bullied by my Spelling teacher, assaulted in a way that would cost her her job if it happened today. Physically dragged by one ear to my home room, where another class was being held. In front of all those students, after releasing her grip on my ear, she upended my desk onto the floor. Talk about humiliation. Papers everywhere, even a few toys scattered around. All because I had left my Spelling book at home again and this teacher did not believe me.
In 7th grade I was punched in the diaphragm on my way out of the library by another student hiding around the corner. Again, books and papers everywhere. He thought it was funny as I gasped for air. Fortunately there were others there who did not find it amusing who helped me up and assisted in gathering my papers.
These are just basic examples to illustrate the overarching principle – making another feel like less than they are to let the bully feel much greater than he is. Calling someone stupid for giving a wrong answer. Ridiculing someone’s lifestyle. Anything. But the answer most often proposed is ineffective. “He’s just jealous.” “You’re a wonderful and smart person.” Platitudes like these only provide a limited short-term boost.
The answer is to include the victim in activities, games, sports, social settings where they are NOT bullied. Only by experiencing their own value do these children develop self-esteem. Being a meaningful part of a team effort is one of the best ways to show someone that they can and do make a difference. Everyone brings something to the table, and it is up to us to teach our children this. Other children can be role models, friends, and more to someone who is bullied. We just have to show how important this is and what intrinsic benefits come along with this.
There are not many feelings greater than helping someone achieve success, and even young children can be taught this if parents take an active role in their social development. Please, teach the new generation to be positive and inclusive while standing up to those who bully others.