Bullying is nothing new. It’s everywhere – in schools, online, at work, at home. It’s a growing problem that isn’t being taken seriously. I’m not talking about that one kid that picked on another kid one time. I’m talking about the kid that picks someone and relentlessly makes their life hell day after day, year after year. Why do they do it? Who knows. Maybe because it makes them them feel better about themselves. Maybe because they get bullied by someone else. It seems bullies always have an excuse for their behavior, but never acknowledge it and correct it. Of course, it is never that simple. When a certain behavior is normal for someone, they often don’t realize their behavior is bad or toxic to those around them.
I’m no stranger to bullying myself. I’ve experienced it in school, online, at work, and in relationships. It came from people claiming to be friends, co-workers, ex-boyfriends. No one is safe from bullying and no place is safe from bullying. In high school a girl I was friends with at the time and her boyfriend teamed up to do everything they could to try to destroy me. They called me names, spread rumors about me and my family, bumped into me in the hallway every chance they got, and they even got their mom to take them to egg our house. At my first job a co-worker wanted to date my mom. When I told him she wasn’t interested, he shoved a big metal table on wheels at me. It shoved me up against a wall, then he proceeded to call me and my family names. He cussed and yelled until I was crying my eyes out. It wasn’t the first time and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. My manager said to shut up and deal with it, so I quit on the spot. A co-worker from another job made it her mission to make me hate myself. She would walk by and make fun of me every chance she got. She’d tell me everything she hated about me – my hair, makeup, eyes, nose, nothing was off limits. A lot of my bullying happened from high school into early adulthood. I think that made it easier to deal with it. My priorities were on my family and I was tough enough to not only handle it, but brush it off. I didn’t care what people thought of me.
My kids are no strangers to bullying either. My son had a kid single him out for nearly 4 years. This kid told my son he was stupid and ugly. He would trip him in the hallway and throw applesauce on him at lunch. He would steal his stuff and break his hats. He made his life hell. Last year a new bully was introduced. He would throw balls at my son, knock his binder out of his hand, and squirt ketchup on him at lunch. My daughter is going on 3 years with her bully. This girl targeted her. She’s pushed her off play equipment, tripped her in the hallway, told her she’s stupid and ugly, told her no one likes her, and more recently told her ‘I don’t care if you get hurt. No one cares if you get hurt.’ Things get better from time to time, but the bully is always there. Watching and waiting for a time to strike. Doing everything they can to make another kids lives hell. And for what? To feel good about themselves for a few minutes? To get the attention they so desperately want? No kid should have to go through this.
I honestly never thought that’d be something I had to do every day as a parent. Build my kids up to be strong enough to handle being bullied. Listen to them break down and cry because someone made them feel so terrible about themselves. Listen to them beg to stay home from school because they feel like it’ll never get better. Listen to them ask why someone would hate them so much when they just want to be their friend. Listen to them cry and tell you they just want to die. It breaks you as a parent. It destroys your happiness and sense of security. It leaves you anxious, worried, and terrified. It leaves you questioning the no bullying policies and what’s actually being done to enforce it. You have to advocate for your kids because no one else is going to.
In our home, we build each other up. We focus on kindness and respect. Emphasize our strengths. We make sure our kids leave this house everyday being strong enough to handle anything bullies can throw at them. How sad is that? As parents we should be instilling confidence, respect, strength, kindness, and love because we want to raise good, kind, respectful kids. Not because we’re forced to just so they can survive the day. We should be advocating for our kids and their well being. Working with the schools, other parents, and kids to stop bullying from the first sign there’s a problem. Helping kids realize their behavior and ways they can change it.
Bullying is a growing problem. It’s nothing new. Honestly I don’t know what can be done to stop or control it, but I believe it starts at home. Look at the way adults treat each other, especially online. Always name calling, arguing, or belittling someone for having a different view or opinion. Getting outraged over the smallest things. Kids learn by example. They’re sponges soaking up everything around them. Lead with kindness, compassion, respect, love, and watch the world change. Watch bullying become a thing of the past. Watch our kids be the best version of themselves and spread kindness.