Please Let’s Not Be Naive About the Impact Bullying Can Have On Our Kids
The subject of bullying is a hot topic and it has been on everyone’s agenda for a number of years now, whereas in the past it didn’t really get talked about so much.
And yet there have always been bullies. You can be bullied by a sibling, by kids at school, playing sport, on public transport and even as an adult at work (just ask any apprentice) by your co-workers and, sadly, often by your superiors.
Bullying can be physical, verbal or by the process of deliberate exclusion.
And now, of course, there is the bullying that occurs on social media. And this may well be the worst form of all because it can be done anonymously and relentlessly.
And it can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Once upon a time it seemed to only happen to the outsiders at school. The ones who looked or walked or talked different. Or a kid would get picked on for being socially awkward. Often teachers just looked the other way with the belief that it was pack animal behaviour and to be expected. Some teachers are bullies. The very people we trust to protect our kids are the ones singling them out in the classroom and humiliating them.
But kids (and adults; just watch any episode of Real Housewives) seem to be getting more vicious. A friend can turn into an enemy in the blink of an eye and the once popular girl suddenly gets turned on with private Facebook groups formed to belittle and attack them. People get into actual frenzies. Just ask Charlotte Dawson or Constance Hall.
And no matter how many parents teach their children to never bully and to never exclude another child, no matter how many educators and workplaces implement anti-bullying polices, bullies are ALWAYS going to exist.
Because for every 100 parents that teach their children the right way to behave there is going to be 1 who doesn’t. Maybe that parent is a bully themselves. And no matter how many safeguards are in place in schools or workplaces they are going to find a time or a place to bully if that is what makes them tick.
A while ago I wrote about Boys and Long Hair here, about a young boy who was begging his mother to get his hair cut because he was getting bullied and I gently suggested that perhaps he could grow his hair longer when he was older and for the sake of the situation at-hand, to cut it. The response to that article was a resounding amount of individuals saying things like: “no way would I give in to the bullies”, “that’s letting the bullies win”, “tell the bullies to shove it”.
Then I wrote an article here about helping out your daughter by being aware of her desire to be on top of makeup, and hair removal in order to prevent potential bullying and the response was similar. “no way will I be telling my daughter to change herself for the sake of bullies”, “couldn’t even read this article, it’s attitudes like this that cause bullying instead of teaching kids not to be assholes”.
When my son was a teenager he was teased for having a shock of bright red hair. Then he developed severe facial acne whilst enduring two years of wearing braces. Let me tell you; there was nothing I didn’t do to try and help him. We had his hair bleached blonde every four weeks and I spent a lot of time, effort and money to sort out his skin. Today his teeth are straight, his skin is clear and he embraces being called a Ranga. But back then, my sweet, shy guy was super sensitive and who knows what the result could have been if I had have told him to shrug off the teasing. Maybe nothing. Maybe not.
I think it is naive to assume that any child who is already being bullied can suddenly find the intestinal fortitude required to simply turn the other cheek. If that were the case, then a bully wouldn’t have singled them out in the first instance. Bullies are sly, sneaky cowards and look for potential victims.
In a world where we have adults shutting down their social media accounts after relentless on-line attacks, some of whom have taken their own lives as a result, how can we brush off a potential threat so easily?
If you have never been personally bullied (and a lot of our generation have not) then you need to understand that it can be beyond terrifying. And it can be life-changing; to the point where your self-esteem is eroded and your confidence destroyed with the potential to develop long-term psychological issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. And tragically when you’re unable to cope one more minute when suicide seems like the only option.
Every parent needs to consider that their child could be a potential victim of bullying at some point, or that it could even be happening to them right now but they’re too embarrassed or ashamed to tell you in case you think they’re weak.
We need to be fierce protectors of our children. They can’t all be six feet tall with nerves of steel and advanced martial arts skills. So before you casually dismiss suggestions to help protect your children from potential bullying think about the potential devastating ramifications if you don’t.