Thursday, April 12, 2012


A few nights ago I was flipping through channels and I landed on the preview for the new movie Bully. I really only caught the last 30 seconds or so but that was enough to take my breath away and break my heart. 

I won't be seeing Bully even though I think it's an important film about an important subject. I don't need to see it to know what's in the movie. I was bullied as a kid. I lived it. I saw it happen to other kids around me. I saw adults stand idly by and do nothing about it. I send my kids to school with worry in my heart because someday it could happen to them.

After I saw the preview I turned the tv off and went into Joseph's room.  I watched him sleep and he looked so calm and peaceful that I wanted to cry. I leaned down and wrapped my arms around him, hugging him close to me. He stirred a little and murmured "Are we all out of bacon?" I pushed his hair back and then stood watching him for a moment more. Then I went into Elle's room to check on her. Her little head was back, read hair all over the pillow and she was softly snoring. We call it "sawing twigs". I moved her into a position that looked more comfortable, covered her back up and then stood there for a minute listening to her breath.  Then I went to bed but I didn't go to sleep.

For hours I lay there awake wondering what I could do to keep my kids safe.  What I could do to keep other kids safe. Vulnerable kids, kids with special needs, small kids, heavy set kids, poor kids, kids who don't wear the right thing or say the right thing or look the right way.

I couldn't come up with an answer.  The fact is that every day parents have to send their kids into great big world and some of those kids are going to be bullied.  Some of them are going to be bullies.  Most of them will see bullying but won't know what to do about it or won't care enough to try to do anything. So how do we change that? Where do we start?

I will tell you where I am starting. I sat my children down and we talked about bullying. We talked about what it means and how it feels and why it's never ok. We talked about how someone else's pain is never funny and how just because someone might be different from us it doesn't make it ok to be unkind to them. We talked for a long time and we agreed on three things. I know this blog isn't read by many people and I don't expect to change the world with this but I am begging you, if you are a parent PLEASE consider talking about your children with these three things. Please consider sharing this post on facebook or twitter or just with someone you know. Maybe it will only impact one kid but it could mean the world to that one kid. The three things I talked to my kids about and came to an agreement on are:

1. If you're being bullied STAND UP and SPEAK UP.  The old advice was "ignore it and they'll stop" but that's not true. All it does it tell the victim that if they were handling things right the bullying would stop. Even worse it lets the bully know they have a victim who won't fight back. If you're being bullied then tell someone who can help you. And if they don't tell you then tell someone else and keep telling until you get help. It doesn't make you a tattletale, it makes you an advocate for yourself. No one has the right to bully you and get away with it. (I also asked the kids to promise to talk to me if they were being bullied so I could be sure it was being handled.)

2. Never, ever, ever, EVER bully. Don't engage in behavior that is hurtful to someone. Even if it seems funny at the time it's not ok to get caught up in hurtful behavior. Someone else's pain is too high a price to pay for your own amusement. It's not ok. Not even if you're mad about something or having a bad day or just really sick of how weird/loud/annoying the person next to you is.

3. (I think this one is the most important because most kids will not necessarily ever be bullies or victims but all kids will see it happen sooner or later.) If you see bullying happening do something about it. Get an adult or tell the bully to stop. Never be afraid to stand up for the little guy. We're all little guys at some point and we would all want someone on our side so let it start with you. Be the one to help.

I was interested to see that the third one was the one my kids were most interested in.  They kept coming up with more and more ideas about how they could try to stop the bully. ("Tell a joke to make people laugh." "Make a loud noise to get attention!") This made me happy because there were times when I was young and I saw someone being bullied but I kept silent because I was just glad it wasn't me.  Those are the times that weight heaviest on my heart. I don't want my kids to have those regrets too.

Please talk to your kids.  Hug them close and tell them you love them and let them know that they're important enough and strong enough to stand up for themselves.  Let them know they are kind enough and compassionate enough to be gentle to others. Let them know that they are brave enough to help someone who needs it. Don't let bullying happen just because it's uncomfortable to talk about. Don't think it's not your problem. If we all just try our best to do those three little things I think we can make a real difference.


The Laundress said...

I think about this all the time.

Oh so painful.

Giving them love and support and the strength to carry themselves is really ALL we can do.

And pray. Pray hard.

DawnA said...

It is awful. It is awesome that you sat and had a lengthy conversation and the 3 points are great. I hope it made you feel a little better. The world is hard enough without your peers picking on you.

Trina said...

Thank you for this. I also got the "ignore them and they'll stop" advice when I was bullied, and of course it didn't work. All it did was teach me that nobody was going to help me.

Trina said...

Thank you for this. I also got the "ignore them and they'll stop" advice when I was bullied, and of course it didn't work. All it did was teach me that nobody was going to help me.

Kristen Miller,M.A.,CCC-SLP said...

Thank-you for encouraging me to have the same very important conversation with my own children !