On March 20th bloggers from all over the world will be blogging under the topic BUILDING FROM BULLYING with the hashtag #1000Speak. We as a community understand the damage that occurs to both those who are bullied and the bully themselves and we want to make a difference.
OUR WORDS MATTER!
We share our experiences and our ideas in the hopes that we might:
1 – Help someone feel less alone.
2 – Cause someone to seek help if they need it.
3 – Persuade an abuser to re-evaluate their actions.
4 – Encourage everyone to watch and listen for opportunities to help.
If you are a parent or guardian I really think the best thing you can do is have regular conversations with your child. Don’t wait until something big happens make it a daily habit. If you are both in the car then talk instead of listening to music. At night before bed carve out at least 30 minutes to talk not including the bed time story. Talk about important things. The more you talk the more likely they will be to feel comfortable telling you everything.
They NEED to know YOU are THEIR person!
My guest today, Roshni who blogs at Indian American Mom, understands the value of communicating with her child. I wish all children could be so lucky!
BUILDING FROM BULLYING by Roshni
Bullying is something that has always been in the forefront of my mind. Whether it is boys or girls, the whole idea of another person or a group of kids ganging up against a helpless individual is something that raises my hackles!
I have previously hosted Rachna to share her sage experience of helping one’s own kids get the tools to handle bullying, and I also dwelt on how some girls and women distinguish themselves in meanness. Today, I’m thinking about my own experiences and my son’s to figure out ways in which to combat bullying.
Drawing from my own experiences
I was a terribly shy kid, one who hated the idea of drawing attention to herself. I used to try to physically make myself smaller by hunching up, I looked down most of the time, I muttered a response when someone asked me a question, and I took a lot of time to make friends and just act normally.
I was a prime target for bullies!
First of all, unwittingly, by virtually twisting myself into knots every time anyone looked at me, I pretty much made sure that people did stop and stare! I realized that the first thing to do in order to remain unnoticeable, was to behave normally by assuming a normal posture, and talking clearly so that people wouldn’t ask me to repeat myself.
Second of all, I needed to act confident. Note that I said act, because I was quite the opposite of confident. But, bullies love to pick on someone whom they perceive as meek. I learned to keep my head held high, to speak up, to walk with purpose, and to look people in the eye.
Third of all, I learned not to care so much about what other people thought! If anyone teased me about my appearance or my dorkiness, I accepted it with something close to equanimity, at least at face value, even though I was shriveling inside.
I also found the value of having friends to defend me. Even though I still needed to stand up for myself, I did appreciate when another girl suddenly spoke up for me and rebuked someone who had been verbally torturing me for sometime. It gave me the push to add my voice too and challenge my bully!
Most importantly, I slowly learned to appreciate myself. I learned to love myself for whoever I was. I had so desperately wanted to change, to be cool, to be able to flirt easily with boys, to crack jokes and make people laugh, to be singled out as a leader in class; I wanted those characteristics but I slowly realized that I really wouldn’t be comfortable being that person! So, I learned to let go and to accept me.
Supporting my son
Having had these experiences myself made me deeply empathetic and nervous about my son. Big A, my elder son who is now 11, had his share of being taunted and bullied. He has a nerdy personality, he wears glasses and has a gangly build. I expected him to encounter bullies at some point of time.
He and I had many chats about what to do about bullying and even though I always encouraged him to take support from his teachers and report the bully if he found it intolerable, I am aware that often kids have to manage on their own.
Most school bullying takes place in the playground and though teachers are present, it is physically impossible to keep tabs on every kid. An incident could take place in a split second and, even if the child reports it, it is sometimes difficult for the teacher to gauge a real issue versus someone complaining with little merit. Many times, children feel awkward getting help and I know that many kids turn against a person who makes a formal complaint against any peer.
His worst encounter with bullying took place at a summer camp, where he was targeted by a group of kids with a ringleader who took an instant dislike to my son. The whole group would whisper taunts at Big A whenever they could. Any complaint made to the teacher overseeing the activity would result in a casual, “knock it off, guys!” and wasn’t taken seriously at all. Big A does have a sensitive nature and I encouraged him not to take anything they said to heart.
I didn’t want to step in immediately, but I did reassure him that I would go with him and make a formal complaint, if needed. I could tell that he was wavering between wanting help and wanting to be independent and deal with the issue himself. I kept encouraging him to let me know what was going on and how to deal with it.
Things came to a head during a field trip when these boys actually started physically bullying Big A, by ‘accidentally’ running into him, digging him in the ribs with their elbow and tripping him up. When he told me about it, I was screaming inside but externally I calmly and firmly told him that it was now time to act.
He decided to go to the person-in-charge of the camp and formally complain. I asked him if I could come along but he insisted that he could do this by himself. We rehearsed what would be said so that it didn’t seem like he was merely causing trouble, and that it would be taken seriously.
I was at tenterhooks the whole day and come afternoon when I went to pick him up, I anxiously scanned his expression when he came out. All was well; Big A told me that the lady in charge called in the other boys and everyone had a full discussion about bullying and its consequences. The other boys were made to apologize and promise to refrain from targeting Big A or anyone else. After leaving the room, the ringleader actually turned to Big A, apologized again and shook his hand!
I was so proud of my boy that day for having the confidence in himself to deal with this issue by himself. Without bragging, I do know that his knowing that he could talk to me and get my wholehearted support also played into that; and that is something that I have always encouraged in my blog and I advocate again!
Talk to your kids and listen to them! Every little bit that they wish to share. Who knows, they may be deriving immense comfort and strength through that!
Talk to your kids about bullying! Every little bit helps! Tweet
Roshni was born and brought up in Calcutta, India. She met her husband while they were doing their PhDs and the two set off for the sunny shores of California soon after. She has two rambunctious, mouthy boys who fight during the day, but then whisper and giggle with each other at night long after she’s told them to “go to sleep already!!” She blogs about her Indian American life, and pretty much any other topic, at Indian American Mom. Even though she keeps swearing off social media, you can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.