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Friday, September 13, 2013

Bullying - What Parents Can Do About It 

Recently, a twelve year old girl jumped to her death. The local sheriff said that the girl committed suicide after being bullied online by over a dozen girls. Not sure that's the real story... but if you want to read more:

What troubles me about the report is what isn't said. What were the parents doing about the bullying? Did they know? If not, why not? Was the girl getting appropriate counseling and support at home? Why was she online so often and with odd sorts of social media? Even foreign ones? Why did this twelve year old girl have all the time in the world for the online posting but lacked personal, face to face friendships? Why her interest in the story? Why our interest in this story. I am pretty certain, there are other twelve year old girls contemplating and committing suicide but the news media doesn't cover that out of respect for the family. Why this story? What's in it to shock us?

Am I suggesting that the bullies are not culpable? Of course they are; but, we have to ask: who are the players that led up to this death? What led up to the act? What was her family life like? Did she have any good family support? If not, why did the sheriff zero in on the online bullies? Was he misquoted or taken out of context?  It appears as if her self esteem had tanked a while back or she would have had more to do than post what she did on Facebook.

Not knowing the full story, it's easy to assign blame to one group while looking away from another  In my opinion, the authorities ought to look beyond, (while including in the mix), the online bullies. They need to find out whether  this girl was abused by a 'trusted' acquaintance, friend, teacher, relative or parent.

The take away for me is this: what we say and write matters. Several days ago, my sister said to me: America has to change. We have got to stop spouting our mouths off about anything and everything that we know nothing about! Perhaps she was referring to my blog overtly! Her point was this: none of us are any longer being held accountable for the things we say  unless we get suddenly are thrown in the limelight. Then things we said or did decades ago can be held against us depending on who exposes it and why. But for the most part, the average Joe gets to say anything - even when it is completely fact less  - and no one challenges him on anything he says or why he says it. Yet the cumulative effect is there! There has been a steady state erosion of civil dialogue and commentary - both public and private. There is a general coarsening of the words used. If someone is offended we act as if they are too simple or native! It's their problem. Don't believe me - check out the Facebook postings! They are anything but civil. This girl was taunted to kill herself over and over again!  And so the cycle of hurt people hurting people continues without check. Listen to the TV, radio, awards' presentations! Shock talk is everywhere!  And it comes at the expense of someone!

Let me list a few more examples of bullying that seems ordinary and acceptable of late: a street gang of college students followed Gen. Petraeus to his first class at City University of NY all the while calling him a baby killer, a war criminal, etc. Even if they disagreed with his position as General of the US Army, where is treating each other with human dignity gone? The pundits right and left using name calling to get their point across. Maybe even the re-posting of things I find humorous are offensive to some others.  It has to start with each of us - person to person. Even if everyone around us is name calling, being liars, being a bully, we have to resist the urge to match fire with fire. Yes, its humanly impossible but not when we arm ourselves with supernatural grace.

And parents have to step up their game. They can't have it both ways. Either they attend to their parenting duties or they admit they can't. All of us have to make sure our own children are not bullied in ways that spiral out of control. We have to give them effective tools when they are bullied. We have to  fill the emotional tanks of our children so they don't care about the bullies they encounter. We have to make sure we know what our kids are doing and why! We have to set the example or else bad stuff like this happens and then its too late to do something about it.
You can read more about this in my next book due to be released in November, 2013 entitled Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever. The subtitle is still up for grabs...

Finally, we have to make sure that we say what we mean and mean what we say in a civil way!
It just isn't true that sticks and stones can break my bones but words can't ever hurt me!

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