Bullying, not a laughing matter

Bully, Lee Hirsch’s documentary about the torture some children inflict upon others, debuted a few weeks ago to wild acclaim and fanfare. As well it should.

Bullying, what it is and how to stop it has become the No. 1 topic among administrators, educators and parents. We know it’s a serious problem.

What we don’t seem to know is how to fix it. We can psychoanalyze the causes from serious to “because I felt like it” all day long.

What we know at the end of the day is that no one has one “cure.” I think some of it is just human nature. It’s the classic struggle to be “top dog.”

Children, like all human beings, are fighting for currency. As adults we work for money because money is our currency. It’s where much of our “power” comes from. At their age popularity is currency — it is what they value.

Children “pay the bills” with popularity. It’s why they will do almost anything to get it and do almost nothing to stop others from bullying if it means they get to keep it.

Telling kids to, “just stop bullying!” is akin to telling adults to just stop getting paid.

Hierarchy

Even as we discuss what we can do to put an end to the almost sociological need to establish a pecking order in public school, we don’t consider what would really help dismantle the inevitable A-list to D-list ranking that exist in every student’s head.

Perhaps what we need to do is dismantle the “social hierarchy” of the average public school.

Athletics and extracurricular activities are vitally important. Play baseball, basketball, football and such but don’t allow it to garner any greater attention in school than if you hunt or fish or take part in 4-H.

I have yet to see the “Mathletes” get a Pep Rally. We should also quit telling the kids that popularity doesn’t matter and then elect a “King” and “Queen” of every formal.

Kids are quick. They figure it out. Popularity has perks. We lied.

I don’t know the answer, but I do know it breaks my heart to hear of kids treated badly and marginalized. Until we truly discover how to eradicate bullying, we will have to focus on what we can do to empower the rest of the student body to stand up to them.

If we can’t stamp out the root cause, we should at least aim to nip it in the bud.

Look Up

I have been proud of my daughter for many things over the years: her sweet demeanor, her athletic prowess, her grades. I have never been prouder, however, than when I heard of her marching up to a much bigger classmate who had spent the better part of the week emotionally torturing a friend.

I’m told that my daughter, 100 pounds of pure fury, craned her neck UP to see the towering opponent and announced in no uncertain terms that the bullying WOULD stop — and it did.

While not best friends, the girls are no longer enemies, to the relief of all parties involved.

I would like to claim all responsibility for Girl Wonder’s backbone but that would be a lie. She learned from watching a friend do the same for HER a few months earlier when a classmate strung together a string of curse words that I cannot publish in a family paper. I’m not sure you can even SAY them unless you are a sailor. This was directed at my child.

Within seconds of the utterance, my daughter’s sweet, shy friend of good Christian training had sprung to my child’s defense like a mother tiger in defense of her cub. The culprit in that issue later apologized.

These are just two of the MANY instances.

There are good kids all around us. Smart, savvy and whip-quick to right a wrong.

We need to focus on them. Standing up until bullies back DOWN is a seed that once planted, starts small but with nurture can continue to grow.

We — and many families — have stressed since the beginning that you treat others as you would want to be treated and this includes being willing to stand UP for someone who needs your help.

I am a laugher, not a fighter. I’m an almost rigid follower of the rules and I’ve never thrown a punch in my life. Still, I have no shame in saying that if my child ever ends up in the principal’s office for standing up for what is right — and that includes getting in a fight to protect themselves or a friend — we will accept our punishment as is only right. Then we’ll go out for ice cream.

In the immortal words of Aaron Tippin, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something, or You’ll Fall for Anything.”

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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