It’s simple. Bullies must be stopped.
Children must be taught from very early on that to treat others with the intent to be cruel, malicious and just plain mean is unacceptable.
The school shooting in Ohio in February of 2012 was once again a case where the shooter was bullied by others. “An outcast,” one of his schoolmates said. Angry, frustrated, and visibly sharing those feelings on his Facebook page with handwritten signs and photos, he walked up to a table filled with other boys and just…shot them. As of this writing, one is dead and four others are in the hospital, seriously injured. Exponentially there are dozens of family members affected, a school in crisis, and a small town wondering, as many have wondered before, “how could this happen here?” My heart broke as I heard the call to 911 “There’s been a shooting at the high school.” No name needed, just the high school. That’s how small the town is where this shooting took place.
We must, must, must teach our children not to bully others.
There is nothing more demoralizing, heart wrenching and wrong as the bullying of children by other children. I’m no Pollyanna – I know there are bad things that happen all the time, and growing up is filled with big and little injuries, both physical and mental, that help us to be stronger, more self-reliant and resourceful adults. Take a survey of your friends, your co-workers, and surely every one of them will have some horrid memory of being bullied at some time or another as a child.
No, what I’m talking about is the daily, incessant, cruel abuse of those who are truly on the fringes – and you know who I mean. The fat girl, the zitty boy, the brainy but awkward ones, the gay boys and girls who are struggling to find a way to be themselves, the “different” kids who don’t blend in, can’t find their place. How painful it must be for them, and how unnecessary it is for their more run-of-the-mill classmates to turn on them, hurling insults and taunting them for sport.
It’s often said that children learn to bully from what they see in their homes, but I don’t think that’s always true. Some get caught up with their group of friends, some are born mean, and some are simply ignorant. But whatever the reason, parents have a responsibility to teach their children how to treat others, and to stop them if they see them behaving in a way that they feel is inappropriate, but we can’t be around all the time, can we. I imagine that many parents of bullies don’t even realize what their children are doing. I often told my kids, especially when they were in high school and Columbine was a story they knew well, “be nice to everyone. You never know what’s going on with people.” Not that they had to befriend every classmate who was different – just don’t be mean. Please, I would say, don’t be mean.
So, simply put, teach your children to be kind, teach them to be careful, and teach them to understand that we are all unique…some more than others.