It is the issue of the moment. Yes, it’s real but in my opinion, often “misdiagnosed” (for lack of a better word). Bullying. The news recently has been filled with stories of it. A girl killed herself in Florida after two classmates tormented her at school and online. Now one of the bully’s parents are charged with a crime, too after video surfaced of her abusing her children. Shocking, I know. This is not something a child comes equipped with. Like hate, bullying is learned. If this woman’s parenting style is any indication, her daughter was simply mimicking what she’d seen her whole life. That doesn’t excuse it, mind you. Maybe just explains why some kids do and some don’t bully. We’ve all been kids, many of us have them, some of us work with them, we know kids can be mean. The honesty that’s so endearing when they’re little can become a weapon as these children sharpen their personalities. Treating people poorly can be a way to elevate oneself. I’m better than you and I will prove it by belittling you at every opportunity. I’m treated poorly myself so I will lash out and treat you the only way I know how. I’m hurting because you a)stole my boyfriend b)embarrassed me c)are different than me d)a million reasons and I will gain control over these feelings by bullying you. I’m just not a nice person. Again, not excuses, more reasons, I guess. The case in Florida is frustrating for so many reasons not the least of which is that these girls were cruel to the classmate on Facebook, Instagram, and other sites they were all on. In interviews, the parents of one of the bullies said they monitored their daughter’s social media sites. No, you didn’t. The parents of the girl who killed herself after the harrassment said they monitored their daughter’s sites. No, you didn’t. Here’s an idea. Get the hell off the internet. The minute you learn this is happening, take phones, computers, tablets, whatever, away. Restrict free time immediately. You go to school, you come home, that’s it. Contact the school, administrators, teachers, whomever you need to to find out what is happening and how to stop it. I understand parents’ complaints can fall on deaf ears. I realize we cannot control every moment of our teenagers’ lives. I know kids find ways to have contact and that getting involved can risk embarrassing your child or upsetting other parents or making the bullies lash out at your child even more. It beats the alternative of burying your child. This case is an extreme one. Certainly most instances do not end in suicide. This young woman who felt so despondent over how she was treated that she jumped to her death needed help. Yes, from her parents but perhaps professional help as well. The girls who face charges now for pushing her over the edge need help too as evidenced by a Facebook post after the suicide that read “Yeah, (blank) killed herself and IDGAF (I don’t give a #$@!).” WHY IS THIS CHILD STILL ON THE INTERNET AFTER EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED?! WHERE ARE HER PARENTS?! Appalling that she would write something so horrible. Shameful her parents haven’t done more to show her actions have consequences. On the other end of the spectrum is the ridiculous story this week of two high school football teams in Texas. A set of parents whose sons were on the losing team accused the winning coaches of bullying because the game was so one-sided. The final score was 91-0. The parents were upset the coaches didn’t pull starters sooner or encourage the boys to ease up. Are you kidding me? By all accounts the coaches did what they could, running out the clock at times, putting in second and third string players, calling for fair catches but what lesson does it teach to say ‘you know boys, let’s ease up here because the other team isn’t playing well tonight.’ Funny thing is the coaches and players from the losing team didn’t have a problem with the game. Sure, they had a problem with getting their hats handed to them, that’s never fun, but not one of them felt bullied or mistreated. All of this lead to a useless investigation that ended as you might imagine with the coaches cleared of any charges of bullying. There will be a change to that particular school district’s football game bracket to more evenly match opponents but most people interviewed admitted that needed to happen anyway. My point, and I do have one, is crying BULLYING is dangerous. It dilutes a serious problem, makes us less apt to take a case of actual bullying seriously, and frankly, diminishes what happened to the young woman from Florida. She was bullied, no doubt about it. I’m no psychiatrist but I’m guessing her developing psyche and fluctuating pubescent emotions combined to make her feel worthless and hopeless because of those girls words and actions and she, to repeat and oft-used quote ‘found a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’
I talk to my daughter often about bullying. Dad keeps an eye on social media. We’re not perfect, far from it, but I’ve learned the best way to know what’s happening in her life, in person or online, or even in her heads sometimes is to LISTEN. I shut up and listen.