Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bullying

When my son Peace was eight, he came home from vacation Bible school at church and explained to me that he'd been bullied by a five year old whom he did not know. The the spunky, mean little kid was a head shorter than him, but he kept after Peace the entire evening and had my boy cowering in a corner like a cornered cockroach about to be squashed by a shiny and black pointy toe on a high heel. I remember taking this as a terrific opportunity for Peace to learn and practice anti-bullying skills. First I made Peace understand how an entire demeanor can project "victim" by role playing the part with him. Next, I taught him how to puff up his chest, move towards the offender, and firmly state, "You stop it right now!"

Apparently, he's learned well. Peace tells me from time to time about high school jerks looking for trouble. He's gone right up to a complete stranger in the library muttering cuss words near him and stood his ground, "Hey, say it just a little louder. The librarian can't hear you." His I-mean-business approach sent that guy high tailing it out the glass doors. Another acquaintance of Peace became offended by Peace asking him not to have his trash talkin' friends around. The classmate began to escalate his behavior toward Peace into bullying. When the young man tried to knock Peace's books from his hands, Peace stepped forward and said sternly, "That was brilliant. Better NOT happen again." And it didn't. In fact, the kid has become down right friendly with Peace.

I watched Oprah today on the subject, and dog gone! The therapist taught a child on the show the same strategies I taught my son seven years ago. Thank God it was none of that wussy "Just ignore it, and it will go away" stuff. I won't abide bullying.
Goodness, two weeks ago, I watched an older boy scorn another child's reading skills in my class. I stopped what I was doing to have a not-on-my-watch chat with him.

Oprah's show opened with two mothers of boys who'd hung themselves after verbal bully attacks in the last two weeks. Words can kill. I found myself weeping for them and their loss. It bolstered me to fight even the silly "Loser!" remarks so prevalent today.

The proverb "Thoughtless words cut like a sword. But the tongue of wise people brings healing" became literal to me today. Lord, let me be wise.

4 comments:

almostgotit said...

Amen, True!

We need to teach our girls these skills, too... and it can be a little more complicated with girls. My daughter recently told me she been "sharing" her new ipod nearly every day with another tough-sounding girl on the school bus... and my daughter clearly felt really torn between her obligation to be "nice" and the fact that she brings the ipod on the bus for her OWN use (not to mention the Yuck of sharing ear buds.)

Words CAN hurt, and yes... they can kill, too. And "Turning the other cheek" isn't ALWAYS the best answer, is it?!?

K said...

Every teenager, especially girls, needs to read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. It's not about bullying, it's more about personal safety as you get older. The point is that fear is a gift, and if you trust your insticts you will be much safer. He discusses specific actions & verbal patterns people use when they are trying to gain your trust (for good or for bad). Almostgotit reminded me of this book, because he says that we raise our children, especially girls, to be nice and polite and share, but they need to be told it's OK to draw the line. Some of it is a little graphic, but he says that if you know specific things to be wary of, red flags that can signal a person is up to no good, you can actually be LESS afraid because you can trust your judgement and not have to jump at every shadow.

truevyne said...

Almost,
Jesus was a man of action, and He didn't take no stuff...except what He was willing to take. His decision. We gotta teach our kids the same. And, yes, Pooh Bear it gettin' that talk too when it comes time.

K, sounds like a good book. I'll recommend it to my daughter when she gets older. I'm good on the fear and reading people stuff from living in the city for some years.

Thicket Dweller said...

Good words. Thanks for sharing.