Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bullying: We Are All Responsible

This is a topic which is current, vital, and needs to be explored worldwide, as bullying is something which is becoming epidemic amongst our children, and indeed there is no age limit to bullying. To better understand the meaning of the word bully, it helps to first understand where the word and concept began.

When searching the etymology of the word, you find the following history of the word:

bully (n.) 1530s, originally "sweetheart," applied to either sex, from Dutch boel "lover; brother," probably a diminutive of Middle Dutch broeder "brother" (compare Middle High Germanbuole "brother," source of German Buhle "lover;" see brother (n.)).

Meaning deteriorated 17c. through "fine fellow" and "blusterer" to "harasser of the weak" (1680s, from bully-ruffian, 1650s). Perhaps this was by influence of bull (n.1), but a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" may be in "protector of a prostitute," which was one sense of bully (though not specifically attested until 1706). The expression meaning "worthy, jolly, admirable" (especially in 1864 U.S. slang bully for you!) is first attested 1680s, and preserves an earlier, positive sense of the word.

You can see the word was originally a positive one, finding it's roots in love relationships, then evolving to mean a "fine fellow". Then, somewhere in the 17th century it shifted to become a "blusterer", and then "harasser of the weak".

Today we all know a bully is someone who picks on people who are weaker, younger, smaller than themselves. Bullying has become such a big problem in our schools, with our children and teenagers, and it has become such a frightfully big issue that now bullies don't just rely upon their words to scare others, or their fists and threats, now bullying includes knives, weapons, groups of tough kids mistreating smaller kids, and even in the extreme at times, including guns and firearms.

Why is it, that in 2014, when we are such a "civilized" society who are self-aware, understand the psyche, and psychology of what makes a person operate or "tick", are we now seeing such an eruption of violence and negative behavior in our kids?

The answer to me is so simple; they have learned this behavior from us, the elders, and in the last twenty years our mentality in North America has become so split due to political correctness, and our striving for "rights", that discipline has become a concept which no longer is cut and dry in our society.

When I grew up as a child in the 70's, and 80's, my parents had the "right" to discipline me as they saw fit. Depending on what I had done, my parents had the freedom and right as parents to ground me, govern my time and leisure activities, and when it was deemed necessary, they could spank me. These spankings seldom hurt my bottom as much as they did my pride, and truth be told while I do not support violence of any kind for any reason, the occasional swat on the backside got my attention, and helped me determine just how far I would push my parents as I just didn't enjoy being degraded in that way.

Now a days, parents are forbidden to spank their children, and there are so many help lines, groups, advocates and social structures set up that if a parent does spank their child, they can face legal recourse, and even have their children removed from their custody to be put into foster care!

I'm not saying bully's need a good spanking, or that it would even accomplish anything, what I am saying is that if parents had the freedom to discipline their children from an early age, maybe those kids would grow up with a better sense of right and wrong. Maybe those kids would think twice before pushing the boundaries out of reach if their parents had the right to teach them from a very young age that some behavior simply won't be tolerated.

This is just one aspect of what is a huge global problem though; parents know they are being watched, monitored and do not have the freedom to parent their kids the way they themselves were parented, and that can be a part of the problem. But it's only a small part of it.

Children Learn Behavior

When a child acts out, at early ages the parents either support or thwart that kind of behavior. Some parents believe their kids are just being kids, while others try to teach their children boundaries and limits. And yet the medical establishment does so much damage during these formative years by labeling these kids as having ADHD, and put them on medication, when in truth they are likely just very active kids who aren't being physically stimulated enough. Kids are now faced with a world where both parents must work to make ends meet, and often they are left in the care of the easiest baby sitter there is; the television. Kids don't spend nearly enough time outdoors playing, and exhausting their massive stores of energy. And then when they act out, or can't pay attention, or are fidgety we medicate them to make them easier to cope with, complacent, and simpler to deal with. We are medicating our children because they aren't active enough, and these medications are meant to dull the child's perception, make them calm, quiet, still. Are children supposed to be quiet little creatures who sit quietly and still for hours at a time? They are kids! They are meant to run wild, climb trees, explore their surroundings, use their imagination to play games, and above all else - be active, and curious and full of zeal!

It's just easier for parents to give their kids pills to calm them down, when in truth, most of the kids on these medications would be best served by going outside and playing.

Our civilization requires both parents to work, which is exhausting for a family unit. You take mom and dad out of their home, make them work 8-12 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, and when they get home they want to unwind and relax, yet the house has demands too, keeping it clean, keeping clothing laundered, family fed, there is no end in this time in our society to the things parents need to get done in order to simply keep the house running somewhat smoothly. So the tv gets turned on, or the video game systems, or movies, and kids are expected to stay indoors and behave themselves, while parents try to get all of their tasks completed, and what you have at the end of a week is a couple who need a vacation, and a child or children who are so bored, desensitized, and under-stimulated that the entire household is off kilter.

Parents are tired, dad may have a few too many beers to unwind, mom may become snarky as she just so badly wants to unwind but there is no end to the chores, work, and routine! So you end up with a child who sees his parents less than he sees his teachers, who isn't getting much exercise, proper sleep, nutrition, and you can do the math to figure out where this leads to.

If that child is seeing his parents snap, argue, abuse alcohol or drugs, chances are the child is going to learn to behave that way too. And this is one way a bully may arise.

Bullies Are Insecure

You don't become a bully because you're wonderful, and strong, and self-assured. You become a bully because you need to protect yourself, so you act preemptively, making sure you are in control of your own life by being on the offense rather than the defense. I'm sure many bullies are being bullied themselves, in some way in their life. Maybe mom or dad are angry, and treating the child badly, be it through physical, emotional, or mental abuse. In any event, bullies at the core are very insecure people, who do what they do because deep down within themselves they are not secure in who they are, and they are not at peace in their role in life. Bullies begin at early ages, on the playground, needing to be the loudest, the strongest, and the one with the most respect, they learn that they can make smaller weaker kids bend to their will by virtue of their words, their fists, and their cruel behavior. If this behavior goes unchecked by parents and care givers, then the bully grows up with the knowledge that they can control their own reality by using aggression and even violence as a means to stay in charge.

If this behavior is never addressed, the child becomes a teenager who has no concept of discipline or consequences, and then they become an adult who will in turn teach their own child that aggressive hostile behavior is how to get things accomplished.

How Do We Deal With Bullies?

This is the age old question; is there a way to handle a bully without ending up a target of their anger? My own daughter has been facing bullying in the past month since starting high-school. Her bullies are from a different school, who share her school bus. It began on day one of school, as this group of boys began making sexual comments towards her, to which her response was to tell them where to go, in not-so ladylike ways. She was not comfortable with how they were objectifying her and talking to and about her, so she put out a boundary immediately by telling them where to go.

The result was cliché, as these boys saw immediately how to push her buttons, and saw the fun in targeting her. As a group, they began to harass her daily on the bus, and the next week they threatened to beat her up the moment she got off the bus. The bus driver did not let her off the bus, and they stood there waiting for her to get off so they could beat her up. My husband and I rushed to the bus once the bus company contacted us, and my husband went after the kids, as they ran away. We confronted the bullies, myself, my husband, and our daughter. And I attempted to talk to them, relate to them, humanize ourselves to them, so they would recognize that our child has family, loved ones, and has a right to ride the bus in peace, just like them.

This didn't thwart them. The behavior continued. So I opted to get the schools, and the school board involved. Since then the threats escalated at first, as these boys were now threatening not only physical violence, but also sexual violence. And yet we did not back down. We stood up to these bullies, and even now they are still facing consequences as the school board has removed some of them from the bus temporarily, some of them permanently, and their parents have all been informed. They are being watched closely now, and it is becoming clear to them that their behavior is not okay, will not be permitted to continue, and they will face severe and harsher penalties should it continue.

In short, the way to deal with a bully is to not back down. EVER.

Bullies rely upon the weakness of their prey. They derive their power from the tears of their victim, they feel stronger and empowered each time a victim backs down, and slinks away. And yet the bully only gets stronger, meaner, and more dangerous. So it is up to the adults in our communities to deal with them.

We Are All Responsible!

Remember the old adage, "It takes a village to raise a child"? This is true - we must band together as adults, as parents, and as members of our societies, to make sure our neighborhoods and streets are safe for all children, and all people. Bullies need to know that no one is going to idly sit by and watch while they terrorize people by virtue of their out of control behavior.

And it is so imperative that as the adults, we also remember that bullies are created, and to keep in mind that at the core of these out of control kids is insecurity, and a lack of love and security. We must lead by example, and put down clear boundaries. If you see children or young adults mistreating anyone, you must speak up. It is so detrimental to turn the other cheek to aggressive behavior in our world. Just because it isn't happening directly to you or your loved ones is not an excuse to ignore bullying behavior!

If you see it - do something about it!

Our kids are living in scary times, the world is all lit up with technology, and now they face things we never even could conceive of at their age; cyber bullying, online thugs, violence and weapons in schools, these are things which are indicative of the state of our kids - they need rules, they need structure, and they need to learn morals and values lest they become adults who trod over everyone around them, carrying that bullying mentality into the world of business, and passing that behavior on to their own children.

It is not okay - and it is up to each and every one of us as freethinking intelligent people to take a stand, and clearly state through our actions and responses to the world that we will not tolerate bullying of any type, any longer.

I am sickened when I hear about children being beaten by other children, or of the all too often stabbings now in schools, kids with guns, kids beating the crap out of other kids.

Do you know why my daughter was targeted by the bullies on her bus? Because of the school she goes to. That was it - the reason. I asked the ring leader very pointedly "Why have you chosen to single her out? What about her makes you want to harass her?" his response was "She goes to **** and that is a school for faggots and queers!"

This boy has said very pointedly that he would like to beat my daughter, rape my daughter, degrade and humiliate my daughter, and all because he thinks her school is for homosexuals...

Something is very wrong. It is very wrong that I had to go to the lengths I've had to in order to see my daughter safe on her own bus. It is very wrong that her bullying was minimized by an adult mother of four children who works for student transportation. It is very wrong that the solution this woman offered us was to take my daughter off the bus and put her on another one. So the bullies get to stay on their bus and chase my child off? No - this is not adequate, proper behavior, and it is why I reached out to the board of education itself.

Make a fuss my friends, speak out, advocate for anti-bullying campaigns. Get involved in your community, speak up when you see bullying behavior, do not allow this to continue. It is up to each and every one of as us adults, as open minded heart oriented people, to draw a line in the proverbial sand and say "NO! This is not acceptable!"

And please, talk to your children. Be willing to see them without bias, and if you see that they have bullying tendencies please do not ignore this! Address it with them, talk to them, and if you need help, ask for help! Please do not let your children become adults who act like bullies, it is a disservice to them, and to society. If your child is being bullied do not ignore the situation! Fight for their rights, show them that they can stand up for themselves, and ask for help - teach them to go to teachers, authority figures, in order to report bullying and put an end to their own victimization!

If you're still reading and stuck with me through this entire entry, I thank you. This is a subject which has never been on the fore in my mind, as we've never faced it. Yet now that it's happened to my child I find myself wanting to become very vocal, and very involved. I want victims of bullying to know that it isn't their fault, and they don't need to continue living in fear! And I want bullies to know that they must change their behavior, or their lives will be fraught with adversity, as it is just not okay to treat others like garbage.

Let's get involved, and take back our kids' rights and freedoms, by making sure bullies do not prevail!

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