My sons were in preschool when they first experienced bullying. It continued in various forms throughout the rest of their years in school, including college. They are half Japanese and look more Asian than white. In fact, when they were 21-months and 6-weeks old, I was approached on more than one occasion wondering “where did you get your kids?” I was in seminary (!) when asked why I would marry and have children with someone who wasn’t “my kind”.
Bullying has been around since the garden of Eden and won’t be going away anytime soon as demonstrated by the bullying our political leaders continue to employ with denigrating voter rights, eliminating safety nets programs, and perpetuating the unequal distribution of wealth and power. Bullying has permeated our language, our attitudes, and our actions and our youngest citizens are suffering the most.
My sons are now 33 and 35. Social media wasn’t around when they were preteens and teens. They had already graduated from college long before Friendster and MySpace (remember them?). Home was a respite and haven from whatever went on “out there” at school and church (yes, the church is a huge offender). They had the opportunity to debrief, regroup, and recharge before facing the onslaught again.
No matter how hard you work at parenting or how much you stay on top of what’s happening in your kids lives or how equipped they are in handling real life, things will slip through the cracks and have an impact on their precious psyches. No matter how much love and support they receive, eventually they must be launched on their own path.
Recent news cycles have had a lot on bullying and the effects of bullying on children. School shootings, teens suicides, and the rape culture link back to bullying. Teachers and school administrators know it’s a problem and parents feel powerless to protect their children. It’s happening in rural and urban areas, public and religious schools, and home schooled children are not exempt. It’s an epidemic and we know it.
Here’s an email I received today from a regular reader of this blog. School shootings was a recent blog topic. I’ve changed the names to maintain this family’s privacy:
I can see why people shoot at schools! My Dtr in regular Ed is being bullied so bad! Sexual harassment as well! As a 5th grader, she stated to me I feel like I’m going to be raped and Id rather throw myself under the bus! Kids are telling her she is better off dead and why should she really be in this earth! Sexual harassment I won’t even go there! School is trying to do something ( not really). I am documenting all meetings and stupid mistakes the classroom teacher is making! So I get it! My child has it all! Brains, looks and talent but no self-esteem! I can only protect her at home! I was told the school is safe! Really! It’s Mary who needs to feel safe! Duh! School is not safe! Just my opinion on why this could happen. They protect the bullies and not the victims!
This girl is 10-years-old! Rape should not even be in her vocabulary, much less something she should be worrying about ever! And kids telling other kids that they are better off dead or shouldn’t be on this earth?!?
We are failing these kids and we are failing each other. When we focus on our differences in order to elevate ourselves (our own pride and prejudices), when we tolerate evil and fail to exercise consequences (as in protecting high school football players who rape), and when we distort facts to perpetuate stereotypes (such as people on food stamps are freeloading, drug users who refuse to work) we feed into the bully culture. Whenever we fail to embody the Golden Rule – treat others the way we want to be treated – we fail to model right behavior and treating others with care and respect.
Maybe we need to be reminded of something that Jesus said:
Later the close followers of Jesus began to argue over the stupid and vain question, “Which one of us is the greatest disciple?”
Jesus saw what was going on—not just the argument, but the deeper heart issues—so He found a child and had the child stand beside Him.
Jesus: See this little one? Whoever welcomes a little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. The smallest one among you is therefore the greatest. ~ Luke 9:46-48, Voice