Coping With Emotional Scars of Bullying 1

Mia Lung is a character in the novel, Delightfully Different. ©D. S. Walker

Mia Lung is a character in the novel, Delightfully Different. ©D. S. Walker

The following is an excerpt from my book, Delightfully Different. Mia is talking as she tries to heal from the emotional scars bullying left.

Part of me wanted to become an advocate for all of the kids who were delightfully different like me. Delightfully different was what Mom called me. I still wasn’t brave enough to speak up. I didn’t trust people enough yet. I wanted to believe there were good people who would understand; unfortunately, our society seemed mean to me. There were TV shows where people ambushed their “friends,” so they could tell them how awfully they dressed. There were people who posted things on the Internet about my generation. They said, “This generation needs to get tougher. Their parents overprotect them. There has always been bullying of kids who are different.”

They said that those of us who were different just needed to learn to fit in, as if it were our fault that we were mistreated. They didn’t think that society should make accommodations for us at all. They implied that our sensory issues were something that our overprotective parents invented. They even blamed our parents for our sensory issues.

Our society was advancing technically, but it was returning to an age of barbarians in terms of the way we treated others. Honestly, what gave anyone the right to judge what I or anyone else wore? Why should I have to be just like everyone else? More important, why would I want to?

Mia’s mom explains to her that she has to learn to forgive to avoid becoming the mean one and I firmly believe this is true.  I hope once people are better educated about how bullying affects those on the Autism Spectrum, that others will come to the aid of the victims, and support them the way they currently support kids who have a physical illness or injury.  That is my dream for the future.  For with understanding and support, I truly believe we can eliminate bullies or at least eliminate any power they have to harm others.

Accountability for Protecting Our Children 2

Mom with kids, Microsoft Office Clip Art. All Rights Reserved

My blog today is related to 20/20’s episode last Friday that has been all over the Internet this past week:  “Bullied to Death” and to Lee Hirsch’s “The Bully Project.” I’m not posting links as they are so easy to find if you chose to google them. Instead, I want to address what wasn’t addressed in either video.

Who is truly accountable for the behavior of the bullies? In my opinion, we as members of society are all accountable for the meanness we are seeing in our schools. Even bystanders have a responsibility to step up and speak up to protect the victims. I hold the schools accountable for my children’s safety when they are under their watch, so yes they do need to have bully prevention programs. They especially need to protect special needs children. However, I hold one group more accountable than any other.

That group is the parents of the bullies because they are not instilling the importance of kindness in their children. You may not agree with me and that is okay. You may believe the parents are unaware and perhaps some of them are. You may say, but they had no way of knowing their child’s actions would cause a child to kill themselves. You may even say it is impossible to police your children 100 percent of the time. You may say another child influenced the child so the parent isn’t to blame.

I say regardless of other influences the first major influence in a child’s life is the parent, but my reason for holding the parent responsible does not end there. You see I know something that some parents seem to have forgotten. I am legally responsible for my children until they reach age eighteen unless they are emancipated. Therefore, I think we actually need to hold the parents responsible. If schools get the bullies’ parents more involved in a way that is not punitive then I think we can really make a positive change.

Let me be clear, I have no desire to sue the parents, although if either of my children are ever severely bullied again, I would not rule this out as an option. I would rather see parents have an understanding of their responsibility, without all the hassle of having to force it upon them.

Remember, I’m all about the importance of forgiveness. Therefore, if they can understand their responsibility, make an earnest effort to teach tolerance and kindness, and get their children to truly understand the consequences of being mean, I will totally forgive them. I think it is time to teach the parents that they have not just an ethical responsibility to teach kindness, but that they also have a legal responsibility to teach kindness to avoid being sued for the damages their unkind children cause.

I think you should know that I hold both of my children accountable for their actions. They have both been taught how wrong it is to be mean. I even had a psychologist tell me once that I made my children to kind. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

The Importance of Forgiveness

IMG_5023I truly believe if we remain angry, we risk becoming the bullies as mentioned in my previous blog, about the emotional scars of bullying. There have been many posts over the internet about how people believe kids should handle bullies. Previously, I commented on a parentdish.com post regarding a father in Florida, who found out someone bullied his daughter on the bus.

I briefly mentioned this in my previous post, Lessons of Forgiveness. I feel I need to do another post about forgiveness because someone commented immediately after me, and suggested that kids need to learn martial arts and then just beat up the bullies.

This is my response:

  1. I have to wonder how many people who respond really understand that the victims of bullying are often children with some form of disability, whether physical or learning or neurological, and they are victims of multiple people at once, not just one person.
  2. Any martial art that allows that level of defense takes years to learn. While I certainly think bullies need consequences, I don’t think physical force is the answer.
  3. The girl, whose father defended her, had cerebral palsy, so it seems unlikely that she would be able to defend herself in this way.
  4. Isn’t recommending this line of defense again implying that the victim has the responsibility to defend herself while the bully has no responsibility?
  5. Shouldn’t we change this climate of blaming the victim?
  6. Shouldn’t we reward people who speak up for themselves and for others, instead of allowing kids to abuse them on a bus or anywhere else?

The whole climate of the school needs to change to one of rewarding good behavior, and especially rewarding those who stand up for others.

I think we as a society have a responsibility to teach our kids that being mean is wrong. My parents and my teachers taught me that being mean to anyone is wrong. I need to be clear that this does not imply that we have to require kids to be friends with everyone.

However, we do need to teach them to respect others including those they do not like for whatever reason. They need to know that talking over others, turning their backs on them, or spreading rumors about them is wrong. Civilized societies usually have rules about being polite, yet somehow our society is failing miserably in teaching this to a significant population of our children.

My goal is not to punish the kids who have not been taught to be kind. I have to forgive the kids and work to educate them instead; otherwise I would become the bully. I think we have to change our society from elementary school up so that our kids learn there are consequences to their actions. We also have to educate the parents, as it is their job to insure their kids grow up to be good citizens.  

If the parents need help with this, then maybe we should refer them back to reading the terms of agreement before signing up for social networks. Most do not allow for harassment, defamation of character, or invasion of privacy. I believe there are still laws in our states regarding this as well. Parents too have to understand that their kids’ actions have consequences. They need to understand that they are legally accountable for their children’s actions, and as a society we should hold parents accountable.

This does not let schools off the hook. I fully expect my kids’ schools to protect them while they are under their watch, and if they don’t then they too are accountable. Even if a girl’s father hasn’t reported an incident to the school, the school still has to protect his daughter. So, please don’t just tell me the dad overreacted by getting angry, and assume that lets the school off the hook. The dad reacted with anger because he was angry. Who wouldn’t be? Anger is not always a bad thing, especially if we turn our anger to positive action. Violence and bullying are always bad however.

I’ve had to work at forgiving the people who hurt my loved one, and believe me it hasn’t been easy. It certainly didn’t happen the moment I heard about the bullies’ behavior. It’s a process and one I still work at every day.

I think it is important enough to work at this, because I really have no desire to become like the bully. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror, and say I’m really doing my best. I don’t want anger to consume me, for that is what anger does. It’s the reason we have terrorist and wars. It’s why there are genocides in our world.

Holding on to anger until it consumes us is our true enemy. Forgiveness is essential to avoid this. Therefore, I work at forgiveness while I try to make positive changes to protect the innocent.

Mahalo for listening,

D. S. Walker

Turning Anger to Forgiveness and Action 1

From 1963 Speech of Martin Luther King, Jr.

From 1963 Speech of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I started writing Delightfully Different to teach tolerance of differences, yet at the time I was angry not forgiving. A group of mean girls wounded someone whom I love dearly. The books for middle school girls were about being mean to be popular, and the other mothers were reading Queen Bees and Wannabes. I learned some even were okay with their daughter acting like the queen bee. I don’t believe that was what the author of the book intended still that is what happened.

I decided that I had to change this somehow. I started by educating the school as to how things affected my loved one and how they could help. They did help, but I also realized the root of the problem was not the school. The root of the problem was lack of understanding of differences, and that meanness is not okay. I decided I had to do something which is how the book was born.

A good friend saw how angry I was and suggested that I try writing from a place of love not anger, and she was totally right to suggest this. She also advised me that even if I never sold the book that writing would be therapeutic, and again she was right. Still I refused to stop there, as from day one I kept telling people about my idea, and that I was going to write a book to teach tolerance in our schools.

Another friend told me that if I was serious, that I needed to get the book on Oprah, because some schools chose their required reading books from Oprah’s book club. I did my research and learned that at least some of the books used are on Oprah’s list; therefore, my ultimate goal for this book is to somehow get it be to be one of the books in Oprah’s book club. I know the kids who need to read it most will then read it, hence I e-mailed Oprah yesterday through her magazine web site. Now we wait and I ask all of you to pray that she somehow sees the e-mail and agrees to help.

Mahalo,

D. S. Walker