Friday, August 29, 2008

Bullying

As many of you know, my almost 13 year old daughter has a situation with a "mean girl" in her middle school. The situation came to a head this summer and I ended up at school yesterday talking to her guidance counselor and the assistant principal. (More on this later.)

This issue with bullying has really made me start to think or rethink how we deal with bullying in the classroom. There are, unfortunately, countless stories of bully victims committing suidice or coming into schools with guns. And all of us, as educators, want to be sure this doesn't happen to our students. So we set in place bully programs and even create laws regarding safe schools. But here I am wondering how much of it really works.

Now I know, already, that many of my comments to this blog will tell me how fabulous your district's bully program is. Go ahead..tell me all about it. But I still doubt its success. You see, what I realized through all of this, what I have known for years anyway, was that bullying has nothing to do with the bully and everything to do with the victim.

When I am faced with a bullying situation in the classroom, I deal with both the bully and the victim. I am sincere and firm and caring and supportive. I do all the right things, say what I am supposed to say, and watch the incidences disappear before my eyes. I am brilliant. But now I think about my daughter and about Ryan Halligan.

Ryan Halligan was 13 year old boy dealing with bullies. He and his dad worked out some methods for handling the bullies and dad thought all was well. Especially since Ryan stopped talking about the issue. Turns out all was not well and Ryan ended up committing suicide.

Now I am not saying my daughter is heading in that direction. She talks to me all the time, has friends, laughs, enjoys life. But I also know how horrible school can be when one is a victim, having been there myself. And I really thought I would build my own child up enough that she would never be a victim herself. So what happened?

One of the reasons I was such an easy target in school is that I could never take a joke. Never. If someone teased me about anything, I cried. At home, at school, with family or friends. Eventually, I just walked around assuming I was being attacked. In fact, most of the pictures I have of me as a young child is one in which I am sulking. It amazes me that this was allowed to go on but parents then didn't quite get it. I was told to stop sulking. Okay, problem fixed.

Cut to adulthood and I realize that, even today, I hate to be teased. I take it all so personally. Sometimes I can handle it but most often I can't. And Ali has watched me not handle it her whole life. Because, you see, my husband loves to joke around. He is great at taking it. He laughs and sends it back. But I can't take it and most of the time end up insulted. So I started watching Ali and I see she is the same. Damn. And that is what makes her the perfect victim.

So now I have met with her guidance counselor and assistant principal. They made sure Ali is not in any classes with her nemesis. They assured me they would watch in the cafeteria and notify her teachers to keep an eye out for any signs of bullying.

But mostly we talked about how to get Ali to be more assertive. To learn to stand up for herself. To learn to handle it. And I have started at home. My husband and I do role playing with her. He's very good at this. I am not so. I have to fight with myself not to get hurt while we are role playing. Old habits are difficult to break. We also play games like telling "Your Momma" jokes. We make them up in the car. We change to "You're so stupid" jokes. She laughs, I laugh. She's very good at making them up. We are both learning.

Turns out bullying isn't about the bully. There will always be people who need to make others feel bad in order to make themselves feel better. It seems that in order to prevent bullying, we need to work with the victims. Maybe some social groups where the children just sit around insulting each other and coming back with zingers. I am hoping it works for my daughter.

Pictures:

47 comments:

Danielle Abernethy said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I agree, we need to look at the victim more. My son is going through some of these issues due to his learning disabilities and his way of dealing with it is becoming a bully himself. He's older than most people of his own mental age and in his classroom, and he learned that scared them. So we have been working with him how to not bully back. So thanks again!

loonyhiker said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. I keep telling my students that we can't change the actions of other people, only our own actions. When we can change how we react to others, we might affect a change in their behavior. If it doesn't change their behavior, you will still be a better person for changing your own. Thanks for sharing this! (I don't like to be teased either!)

TJ Shay said...

Lisa,

You have shared an amazing story here and I hope it will help many people.

First, I think it is important to look at the person being bullied. I have watched too many situations of bullying and have had a zero tolerance policy, like most other teachers. However, I have also tried to talk to the victim. You describe that so well.

Second, you are doing the most amazing thing for your daughter in talking about it. I believe that most 'schools with an excellent bullying program' have merely driven the situation underground and out of sight, not stopped it. That is why it is so important to give the victim some skills for handling it. Bullies will always exist in childhood and, sadly, adulthood.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your daughters!

Bookjewel said...

I agree it is important for the bullied child to build resilience. We all need more resilience! However, sometimes bullying is also about the bully. They need to reflect on their behaviour and ask themselves why they gain pleasure from causing others grief. I've worked with 'adult' bullies and, essentially, they are not very nice people. Bullying is a learned behaviour.

lnitsche said...

Lisa,
Your openness, honesty, and proactive response to bullying is right on! It is so hard to get the balance just right. Balancing the desire to raise a child with passion, heart and concern for others, and teaching her or him to have the confidence and skills to stand up against those that are would work to tear down their beliefs because they more concerned with themselves. Be strong and keep the faith!

Moturoa said...

From far away I support both you and your daughter. It is so wrenching to see a loved one suffer in this way. In my time as a teacher, I have seen some most hurtful bullying of the insidious, sly kind, mainly by girls, where physical abuse is not present.

The boys, I find, tend to slug it out and move on but the taunts of the girls live on into adult life, sometimes colouring their adult relationships. It can take a lifetime of growing to become strong again. A journey well worth the effort to bolster a young one's feeling of self worth.

Kia kaha- be strong.

Allanah K

Joel Zehring said...

I'm noticing that you're working to be the change to want to see in your daughter. I'm inspired by that.

Mathew said...

So as much as we teach "be nice to others" maybe we should be teaching about having a sense of humor, standing up for oneself and finding inner strength.

Artistic Freedom said...

Hi! Mrs. Parisi! Its Melinda thanks for commenting in my blog!

nhill said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I gives me a lot to think about and I would love to hear more about how your daughter progresses with learning to assert herself. I find myself questioning what we can do to work with the victims in the classroom. I think of my daughter's one friend in particular. She is very sensitive and takes everything hard. Are some people just more sensitive? Do we want to make them more hard heart ed? You have definitely started my mind moving. Thanks.

Mohammed said...

That's good what you are doing for your daughter. You put up a good point that bullies bully people to make themselves look good and others look bad. It's good to talk to the victim instead of just judging the bully that his bad.

Kevin said...

I am glad that you ask what is wrong with your daughter. As a student, I don't get bullied a lot. I used to, but one of two thing happened (or both)
1. I pushed what they said aside and forgot about it.
2. They ran out of ideas.
When the school says things on bulling, I normally don't listen (most people don't). I can deal with it, but schools don't do a good job addressing this issue.

Anonymous said...

I like how you mentioned that bullies only bully peopl to make themselves look good. I think it boosts there confidence.Sorry to hear about the problem with your daughter. Please come and check out my blog!
juliea09.edublogs.org

Julie

Anonymous said...

Hi, I"m Jeff. I am writing for a middle school blog In connecticut. I also beleive that bullying has become a big problem latly. I see It all the time at school and some time its hard to stop it because you dont want your friends thinking your weird. Your post has really opened my eyes to what bullying can do to A person.
Thanks

Anonymous said...

I understand what you and your daugther, Ali have been going through. I myself have been bullied in the past, but who hasn't? I know bullying is not right in any kind of way but I always think that other people bully others because they might have been bullied a lot when they were younger. Although sometimes it could be just because they are jealous of you and they have no other way to express their feelings. Just show them that they don't hurt you and eventually they should stop. Even though it hurts, just show them that you are the bigger person then tell your parent or teacher so they can help. I personally do not think the way schools handle bullying is acceptable, just speaking to a child once about bullying will not stop them. You need consequences. You need to address the problem to their parents so not only do they have consequences in school but at home.
Thank you your post has got me to reliaze how heartbreaking it is to see others get bullied or to even be bullied. This was a great post.

-Ali

ltowncrs said...

I just want to say that I learned a lot about myself from reading this post. Thank you.

Melissa said...

This post made me think about my school and bullying, which is something that I really haven't paid much attention to, and the effect it has on people. I think people should think more of this and how terrible it is that people do this to each other. It was definitely an inspiring post.

Melissa

Marissa said...

This was a great post. It really opened my eyes to the horrible things that bullying can cause.

Marissa

Anonymous said...

That was a great post that really gets the point across.

sam said...

ooops! that last post was from Sam

rachel said...

I think that is a great post. I think That resembles the anti-bulling website. GREAT POST!!!


Rachel

Alex said...

Yea its really sad to thing about these kind of things. Most people just ignore this conflict

Sarah said...

Honestly, I think that in some ways bullying helps the children that are being tortured and the torturer. Having adults step back from taking charge and confronting the bully gives other child a chance to fend for themselves. Standing up for yourself is like having respect for yourself; it's needed in this complex world.
Going home every day sobbing at the fact will not stop the bully. It will in fact give the bully more motivation. Once the victim proved that the bully's unkind words have not effect on them the bully will finally stop.
I think that it is great that your daughter, Ali, talks to you about what happens in her day. It tightens the friendship and trust between mother and daughter. By you knowing how Ali feels about her bully you can determine how to guide her to making the right decisions toward reacting to the matter. I'm not saying bullying is a minor flaw to the world, it does make an impact on our lives. It can lead to depression and sometimes death.

Just think, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

-Sarah

Ashley said...

I used to be bullied too. But what gets me threw problems such as bullying is, whenever I get bullied or teased I just ignore it. Than I think, "Is some kid in my class going to make me feel bad about myself?" and the answer is always no. I mean is some random person going to let me think that I actually am a loser or geek? No.

Rob said...

Hi, I'm Rob. I agree more people should be taking a stand for bullying and we should be more aware of it. I hate seeing people get bullied.
Rob =)
Check out my blog
Comments would be nice
roberte09.edublogs.org

Anonymous said...

I think that people should definately be aware of bullying. I see people get bullied all the time and i feel very bad for them. I usually stand up for the person getting bullied.

--kristina
check out my blog
kristinae09.edublogs.org

anthony said...

I like this post a lot. I think it will be very helpful for kids especially around the 5th and 6th grade.

Lauren said...

Bullying is so terrible. It has gotten to be such a big problem in schools today. Most students and parents know, every school has that "mean girl" or guy. It is great that you are preparing your daughter with role playing. Students need to know the main reason why people bully, is because they feel bad about themselves. I hope the issue with your daughter is resolved!

Asia said...

Hi,
Thanks for giving me your view on bullying. I think the same way. At school, I see tons of kids being bullied but there seems to be something holding me back from standing up. I am personally afraid that those kids would pick on me. I take a lot of things seriously as you do, and I appreciate that you shared your own experiences with us.
Thank you

katie said...

Hello, Lisa, I think this post is a wonderful topic to write about and let others see, because bullying is a very emotional topic. While children who are getting bullied think it is themselves, it is really the person who is doing the bullying.
Bullying happens everywhere: no school can say that nobody is getting bullied in school, or on school grounds. This is why I think that the relationships betweeen teacher and student canbe really helpful. I think the bonds between student and teacher should be very close so that if a student ever feels the need to tell someone that they are getting bullied, they could tell the teacher and the matter could be resolved in a few minutes.
A lot of teachers would probably tell their students to go down to guidance, but I know that a lot of students, including me, feel embarrassed or uncomftorable because they don't know that person very well, or they didn't ever have an issue to talk to them about out all.
This is why I think that teacher should have very colse bonds with each of their students.

julya said...

Hi. My name is Julya.
I really enjoyed reading this posts. Its good that people finally learn to stick up for their children. Unfortunitly this problem will never end.There has been cyber bulying cases were a girl commited suicide.Long tory short a myspace lie went wrong. Its crazy on what goes on now. Sometimes the victim can aslo be the bully. I really wish you lots of luck with your daughters bullying problem.

If you get a chance check out my blog
julyaf09.edublogs.org

Bye

Megan said...

I completely agree that bullying is not all about the bully. They go after the people that have low self esteem and won't stand up for themself. They pick on them to lower their self esteem. So, if you are putting yourself down then others might too. Then you will believe them and you won't be able to do anything about being bullied. But, if you believe in yourself then the bullies will have a hader time picking on you because you won't give in as easily. The only reason people commit suicide is because they think there is something wrong with them. They think so because people have told them that there was and they start to believe it.
This is a very great point that you made.
Megan

CameronE09 said...

hello,
I feel like many people are getting bullyed but the kids do not want to talk about is with there parents. That is the problem because if they don't talk about it then bad thing might happen like that little boy you were talking about.

dalee09 said...

I JUST NEED TO SAY THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST INFORMATION I HAVE EVER LEARNED ABOUT BULLYING. It is one of the best posts I've seen in a long time. People need to learn about what to do when bullying is seen or happened to someone.

Mallorie said...

I'm Mallorie, and I am taking part in the stubc08. I'm from Connecticut. I'm sorry to hear about your daughter. I have a friend like that who can't take a joke, and she fights with her mom and her boyfriend a lot because when they tease her jokingly, she takes it personally. I agree that bullies only bully to make themselves feel better. It's sad, because most of the time it's not the bully's fault. It's the parents that raise them a certain way. They only know right and wrong from what they're parents teach them.

Anyway, I hope your daughter doesn't have any more trouble.

P.S. please check out my website at mallorie109.edublogs.org
Thanks!

charisse said...

This post made me think about how much bullying there is at my school. Even if people are only teasing and are trying to make a joke, it can still hurt others. I agree with Mallorie that kids should be taught in the home that bullying is wrong and not funny.

heres a link to my blog:
http://charissea09.edublogs.org/

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I shared it with someone else yesterday. It mattered.

Jose said...

Hi Lisa!
I completely agree with what you said. I disagree with bullying, it's so wrong. I don't see why kids need to pick on other kids because they're alittle different just to make them feel better. It is terrible. Nice blog post!

Katie said...

That post really opens my eyes up. I think bulling is horrible and whats sad is most people are just laughing when someone is getting hurt not a lot of people tries to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Hi this is an awesome blog

Kaelyn said...

hey, lisa great post! It really teaches kids not to bully kds. Also that if you are being bullied that you should always tell them to stop or tell an adult. Your blog is really touching! Nice job Lisa!

Anonymous said...

Lisa, that is a great post. I think you should tell one of your parents if someone is bullying you at school and they will talk to the teachers.

ryan said...

hey, lisa you made a great post. You post teaches kids not to bully other kids and to tell your parents or teachers if you are being bullied.

Jon said...

That was a great post. I can't stand people who bully other people. That is just rude and annoying. People like that just have nothing better to do than go pick on someone. They will only be happy if they see someone else sad.

Check out my blog @ jona09.edublogs.org

Chrissy said...

Lisa,
I can really relate to the way that you felt as a child. I to hated to be teased and there were many pictures of me upset when I was younger. Your daughter shouldn't react to the way that the bullies are traeting her, but if she really wanted to say something then she should say thank you when the insult her and then the bullies won't be expecting that and then they will just leave her alone.

Thanks a Bunch,

Chrissy

richarde09 said...

i am very sorry for your daught but i am gland that she is learning how to deal with bulling and i hope that she continues to make lots of progress

-richard

Emily said...

Hey Lisa!
This is a really inspiring post. I've never been bullied, but i have been teased. My family has always taught me to not take thing so personal and to laugh at myself every once and a while and it makes you feel good about yourself. Also, after a while people give up on making fun of you or teasing you.

I would love for you to look at my blog at http://www.emilyf09.edublogs.org