by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
What would you do if your child came home and told you that someone in their class was being abused or bullied? I bake my worries away, and the first thing I would want to do is pop another chocolate chip in my mouth to give myself some time to think about what to say. The most important thing to do is listen, so whether you pop another chip, or pour yourself a cup of coffee, you should encourage your child to tell you as much about the situation as possible. Once you have the facts as your child knows them, you can make an educated decision about what the next step should be.
I’ll be honest with you, when my daughter came home telling me about one of the smaller boys in her class who was being bullied, my gut reaction was:
· At least it’s not my kid
· At least my kid knows it’s not right to treat people like that
· I hate to get involved, doesn’t sound like this is my fight – maybe I can change the subject
I chatted with friends (some with children and some without) and ultimately ended up at the door of my Pastor. My argument sounded something like this:
“I understand that it would be the right thing to talk to a teacher or guidance counselor, but the next thing you know the bully will be picking on my kid. I don’t want to do what’s right for everyone, I want to do what’s right for MY family. I can’t save the world like I thought I could ten years ago. What’s so wrong with taking the easy road?”
My Pastor reminded me about recent news stories about shootings in schools and pointed out that I have a responsibility as a Christian to do what is for the greater good of my community. He didn’t say that today’s bully would become tomorrow’s murderer – but that’s where my mind went. If I allowed this bully to pick on the little boy, I would be sending a message to the bully that it was okay and to my daughter that it was okay to treat people this way. After some additional talking and some prayer (not to mention sleepless nights), I decided it was time to sit down with my children to talk about bullying and abuse.
Before sitting them down, I figured I better have a pretty good handle on what bullying and abuse is – so I looked it up and here’s the official scoop (thanks Wikipedia):
Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target".
Bullying can be defined in many different ways. The UK currently has no legal definition of bullying, while some U.S. states have laws against it. Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.
Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more "lieutenants" who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse. Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of racism.
Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, church, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods.
Now that I have all this great information, I am rehearsing what I can say and different scenarios to open up the discussion. The first thing I came up with was a graphic:
I am sharing this graphic through social media to hear how others have dealt with the topic in their families. The following steps seem crucial in combating the problem:
· Listen Objectively
· Work With Teachers and Those in Authority
· Talk to Your Children About Speaking Up
§ The Importance of Being a Voice for Others
· Keep Talking and Listening (don’t assume the problem went away)
· Use All Resources Available to You
Not saying that we do everything right at our house, but as Pastor reminded me – you can never go wrong when you tell the truth and do the right thing. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worthwhile in the end.
Don’t be afraid to speak out!