I dedicate today’s post to all of the young people who have been senselessly bullied especially to those who died because they were “bullied to death.”
Asperger’s, which is a high form of autism spectrum and an “invisible” diagnosis started me on this journey, but over the last year I have become even more horrified over the way others are treating young people with any difference. I want to help put a stop to these senseless acts of cruelty. However, we also have to help those who have survived these cruel acts to heal as we try to make the world a better place.
Therefore, this is a continuation of yesterday’s topic. You can read it here.
You have done everything you can to “bully proof” your child and they are still a victim, now what?
First and foremost as their parent your job is to protect them and to help them to heal when they are hurt, so refuse to allow anyone to tell you anything differently. I know many bully prevention programs and books tell you to let your child handle things because as parents we sometimes make things worse. You can try to let your child handle things, but if this causes more problems for your child or your child cannot handle it, Don’t listen to them.
I am telling you this because most authors of the books and programs are talking about children who develop typically, otherwise known as “neurotypical” children. Once our children are emotionally wounded they cannot be expected to handle things themselves or if they do try to handle it, they may give up and internalize negative emotions when the teacher, counselor, or principal listens to the other side and decides our child needs to change to fit in better.
Think about this for a moment. You have a vulnerable child who has been repeatedly abused emotionally and even sometimes physically by his or her classmates. The school reacts by giving the abuser detention or at the most expels the abuser for a short duration. Now the abuser comes back and tells everyone the victim is mean and got him or her in trouble. He or she does not touch the child physically and seems to no longer be bullying that child, but is that true? In the meanwhile the victim is having to meet with the counselor to learn skills to “fit-in” better. The rest of the school sees this child is different. They are fearful of being abused by the bully too and they decide to avoid the child who is different to avoid becoming the victim themselves. No amount of role-playing or counseling is going to help the victim in this case.
What do you do?
You can pull your child out of the school and either home school them or find another school, or you can decide to stay and work to change an ineffective system. If you decide to stay and fight, read on. If you are not staying, that is okay and you can still read further to see other options. We all have to do what is best for us and for our child.
Okay you are staying! First ask to see the school’s bully prevention policy. Next, research your local laws to see if your state has an anti-bullying law. If they don’t, check the laws that pertain to harassment, defamation of character, privacy, and to disabilities. Now contact an organization like Bully Police or a similar organization. You can find them by clicking on the link above, and they have a state-by-state contact list. They can offer suggestions and support about what your next options are. Once you arm yourself with this information go back to the school and try to get them to help.
So how do you help those who experience bullying and the ones who do the bullying?
- First, I know this is going to sound wrong to some people, but do not expel the bully if this is their first known episode of bullying. Instead of detention, educate them about why their behavior is wrong. Make them do presentations to others who bully to teach them about how wrong it is.
- Talk to the victim to make sure the bully is really changing. Enlist at least two model citizens to act as a mentor for the victim and make sure at least one of them is with the victim at all times.
- Reward those who report bullying including the victim. Start a rewards program where random acts of kindness are given points and a certain number of points equates to a tangible reward. The size of the reward does not matter as much as the need to reward good behavior. Simple rewards like a homework pass or ice cream are easy to do.
Bullying might not go completely away overnight, but if we all work together and encourage kindness and support the victims, it will get better while they are in school. Let’s not make them wait until graduation for it to get better. That is too late!