Monday, October 1, 2012

Bullying On the Playground of Life

I started writing this post months ago when my then-7th grader was being bullied by a girl half her size.  This girl at school was doing things like cutting pieces of Vena's hair, taking her shoes and throwing them across the classroom, throwing her homework in the trash, and berating my daughter every chance she got.

I've had another kid boss one of my girls to give her answers to her homework and then turn the other girls on her, telling them not to play with Abby.

My son had his share of problems when he was little, but figured out pretty early on how to deal with it.    As a junior in high school, he has a section leader (band) that he's had a hard time dealing with this semester, however.  The guy even pushed him and has been verbally abusive.  Daymon has just had to ignore him and stay out of his way.  It's really affected how he feels about band this year.

My youngest doesn't like to take treats in her school lunches because there's a girl who always takes them from her.

So, like most families, we have this constant conversation at our house about what is acceptable behavior and what is not.  The whole "treat others as you want to be treated" just doesn't pan out sometimes.  You can be the nicest person on the planet and sometimes people are just jerks.

We have noticed a theme with children that bully:  they are either only-children or they have a dysfunctional family life.  With the first category, I realize that all only-children are not bullies, but several of the bullies in our life have been.  They have been poor communicators and do not have conflict resolution skills.  They often get whatever they want at home and make fun of my kids who have to share the majority of what they have.  (I'm so sick of "Why can't I have my own iPad like fill-in-the-blank?")

The second category is more difficult.  These are the kids you would normally feel sorry for if they weren't such brats.  They are likely bullied at home by either their parents or older siblings.  This may be a rough analogy, but my favorite show is "Criminal Minds" on CBS.  By the end of the program, I find myself feeling sorry for the "unsub" because his childhood was so rough, it's no wonder he became a sociopath. And yet, he's despicable for all the bad things he did.  That's how I feel about some of these kids.

People who are bullied do become adults.  If they never learn to stand up for themselves, they either keep being bullied or become angry, depressed, or resentful.   I hope all children who are bullied are able to grow up, find their voice, and realize that the problem lies with the bully, not with the one who is bullied. They have to have people in their lives who tell them they are awesome though -- people who boost them up and help them see their worth.

My 11-year-old says, "You never lose a friend, you just figure out who the real ones are."  She's so smart.  She has awesome self-esteem and is still often treated awfully by some of the girls at school. She is able to let it roll off her though.  I am so proud of her and her maturity in dealing with these snotty girls.

So what about those girls on the playground that made other girls do what they wanted them to?  The ones who said that if you were friends with someone they didn't like, they wouldn't be friends with you?  We all dealt with that as kids!  Not much changes as adults, apparently.  Not long ago, I was told what Facebook pages I should and shouldn't "like"! I also know adults that have literally been told who they can and cannot be friends with by their supposed friends.  Can you imagine an adult telling another adult who they can and can't be friends with?!

I believe this topic is so relevant in our lives, no matter our age or the age of our children, or even our parents. Why do people like to boss other people?  It must make them feel powerful where they feel powerless in other areas of their lives.  They have to manipulate others because they have no control over their lives, compulsions, or addictions.  It's like the abusive husband that makes his wife think it's her fault he keeps hitting her.  She keeps coming back apologizing because she shouldn't have worn that dress, or made that expression, or said what she thought.  She deserved to be punched -- physically or verbally -- or so he makes her believe.

This translates over to birth.  Women are bullied into cesarean birth like never before.  They are bullied by doctors, nurses, friends, mothers, etc.   They may want an entirely different birth but don't want to disappoint the people around them.  They lack the self esteem to say "NO!  This is my life, my baby, and my body.  I will make my own decisions, like I expect you to make your own decisions.  I'm not telling you how to live your life -- please give me the same respect."

This all boils down to self-esteem.  If you are bullied, you lack the self-esteem to say STOP!  If you are a bully, your lack of self-esteem is evident because knocking others down makes you feel better about yourself.

I've worked with hundreds of women over the years and I believe many of them would make different choices in many areas of their lives if they had good self-esteem.  In the few months since starting training women as natural childbirth educators, it's been amazing to work with women and seeing them develop confidence in themselves.  It has been awesome!

Winston Churchill once stated, "Do your worst - we'll do our best."  I never want to be known as a bully, but rather someone who lifted people up and helped them become better people, reaching their full potential.  I want my children to be better than me.  I want the instructors I am training for Birth Boot Camp to be better than me.

If you are being bullied, you are worth so much more!  If it's too hard to stand up to the bullies, walk away from them.  Don't crawl back.  It's better to stand alone than to let yourself be put under by someone who wants to control you.   Like my very wise daughter says, "You never lose a friend - you figure out who the real ones are."

1 comment:

reginag said...

It's unacceptable. A law must be passed on bullying.

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