Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tears, Fears and Bullies

By Diane May-Waldman

“We stopped looking for monsters under the bed when we realized they are all inside of us.” – Joe Danger Payne.

The following video seems to be going viral. I couldn’t get through it without a lump rising up in my throat and tears falling down my cheeks. I actually watched it more than once and both times it had the same affect on me. Please take a moment to watch it.

Heart wrenching, right? I imagine that it brought up more than one emotion for you, too. Sadness and anger, all at the same time.
There seems to be stories all over the news these days headlining children and teens that have committed suicide because of bullying. Here where I live, we just lost another teenage girl to suicide because of bullying. We’ve lost a couple this year and seems we haven’t learned anything from it.
I am not exactly sure how to reach children before they kill themselves. I have to wonder if they understand that suicide is permanent solution to a temporary problem. I wonder if they understood that we have all had moments in our lives, when we have wanted to stop the world and get off.
But, it doesn’t work that way.
I have heard people of my generation make comments about bullying that leave me shaking my head. Someone said, “Why can’t they do it the way we did it? Duke it out and be done with it?”
I think times have changed since a lot of us were kids. We didn’t have the Internet. First of all, since we didn’t have the Internet, we played outside and because we played outside, whoever was out there, we played with. All the kids on the street got together and hung out. The Internet has managed to keep people a lot more isolated from real human connections. Physical connections.
Secondly, the Internet and Facebook have made it easier to bully. Cyber bully.  Where at one time, you might be bullied at school, but you could go home and take a break. Not anymore. You sign on to the computer, hop on your facebook page and there it is. And more often than not it carries a mob mentality.
I also think kids tend to me a lot meaner than they were when we were kids. There is just no filter on what they say or do. There is no accountability either.
I would like to think that I never bullied anyone–at least I don’t recall ever bullying anyone. Except a time when I joined a couple of my friends to make fun a of girl with a disability. To this day, it causes me a huge amount of shame. There was a girl who lived a few streets over and she had cerebral palsy. I didn’t know that is what she had at the time, so me and a couple of friends were walking down the street and two of them started to walk like her as we passed her house. Not wanting to be the odd man out, I joined it. I knew it was was wrong and I knew I shouldn’t have been doing it, but I did, because my friends were doing it.
Somehow my mother got wind of it. She didn’t scream at me or whack me in the head with her wooden spoon. She cried and told me how ashamed she was of my behavior and went on to explain that everyone was different and that I did not have the right to make anyone feel bad about themselves. By the time my mother was done talking to me, I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out. I felt like dirt.
I think teens are pack animals by nature. A lot of inappropriate behavior, we just wouldn’t have engaged in, if we had been alone. We simply folded under peer pressure.
My mother made it clear to me that I was never to act like that again and I never did. Had she gotten another report of this kind of behavior from me, she would have without a doubt taken out her wooden spoon and busted my ass and I would have deserved it.
My mother gave you one warning and if you didn’t heed that warning, you got your ass busted. It was that simple. My mother had a saying. She would always say, “Sometimes God taps you on the shoulder to get your attention and when you don’t listen, he thumps you on the head and that is exactly what I am going to do if you don’t hear me the first time.”
My mother also said, “You KNOW right from wrong.  You know it as sure as I am sitting here and if you choose wrong, you better be prepared for what comes from that decision.”
And she was right.
You would also have to think twice if you thought of bullying one of my mother’s children. She would warn you first and if you didn’t listen, she made no bones about it, that she was going to handle it.
Most of the kids that I grew up with can remember a specific neighbor. Yes, that wretched woman who keeps your ball if it went into her yard. Well, my ball went into her yard and she kept it. I ran across the street and told my mother.
My mother came outside and demanded that she give the ball back to me. My mother waited with her hand on her hip and this woman wasn’t budging. Before I knew it my mother was calling her a bully and telling her that she should be ashamed of herself and then my mother was climbing over that fence telling that woman she was going to kick her ass. The neighbor quickly threw the ball over the fence and never took our ball again.
Walking back home, my mom was like a hero to me and the other neighborhood kids. My mother said to the neighbor, “Bullying is just mean and ignorant.”
My mother didn’t go into the whole psychological reasons that make someone become a bully. She didn’t tell me that maybe they were bullied or didn’t feel good about themselves, therefore they had to pick on someone else.
Because, she didn’t think that way. She believed that TWO WRONGS don’t make a RIGHT. Plain and simple. Just like when she said that bulling was mean and ignorant. Yeah, it’s that simple.
While we may never end all bullying, we can fix the majority of this problem. And it isn’t a problem that plagues the kids. It’s a problem that plagues the parents and adults surrounding this situation. If we know what is going on with our kids, we could stop it. Yet, we seem to busy to want to intervene and know what our kids are doing, until it’s too late.
School can sometimes be a hard place to be. Especially when teens approach puberty. Our brains and bodies are developing at different rates. We want to fit it and be part of the crowd. We do things we might not ordinarily do because being inside group is not as scary as being on the outside of the group.
Schools claim they are understaffed and can’t get a hold on this problem. More often than not, bullies are punished and this often adds flame to the fire. And some kids don’t and won’t report it in fear of retaliation. This is why it is important for schools to have a policy that if you see or know of a student who is being bullied, you can and should report it anonymously.
If we know who the “ring leader” is in the bully mob and who the victim is, we can start there.
What if we put the bully and the victim in a supervised room together? Told them that they each had to find ONE thing they liked about the other. It could be that the other person has great hair, a nice smile, cool shoes…
And what if we gave them a list of 20 questions that each had to answer. What is your favorite video game? Who is your favorite band? Then made those students discuss their answers? What if they had similar answers or were able to talk to one another about their answers? We now have them communicating on a positive level and have showed them that they are not so different. We have now made the bully AWARE that the victim is a human being.
Two school days in a room together, they are now more than likely able to form some type of human connection and bond with one another.
And what if we asked the bully to tell the victim how they feel when they bully and asked the victim to tell the bully how they feel when they are bullied? What if we got down to the heart of the matter?
And just what if we asked both to bring their favorite music or video game in the next day and share it with the other? What if we actually had them spend time together?
What if we stopped putting a band aide on this situation and really took the time to get to the root of the problem?
And what if parents got on board and we all worked together to solve the problem?
Please visit the following website and get your number. Take a stand to stop bullying NOW. Because, bullying isn’t COOL.

Diana May-Waldman- Bureau Editor for Worldwide Hippies in Rochester NY. Diana is the author of A Woman’s Song. Her poetry in this book deals with the struggles facing all women and the many facets of being a woman in the world today. She is a strong women’s and children’s advocate. A true example of the Hippie movement's continuing growth and spirit. 

1 comment:

  1. You had an awesome mom and you are a great woman. Love this post.


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