On Bullying, Part One

October 10, 2013

I saw this tweet from Johnson and Johnson the other and it really got the wheels turning in my head.

Obviously, I’m not yet a parent and don’t plan to be for quite some time. But it got me thinking, when that time finally does come, how am I going to educate my children that bullying is not okay? Even worse, what happens if my child is the victim of bullying? This is a topic that is going to have to be split up into multiple posts, but first, let me explain to you why it’s so important to me. Bear with me, things might get a little deep.

It all started back in third grade. My elementary school closed and our entire school was split up into two groups: those that got to go to the brand new elementary school and those who got to go to an older one. I was one of the (not so) lucky ones chosen to go to the already established elementary school. Not only was I thrown into a school where I knew almost no one, but over the summer, it was determined that I needed to begin wearing glasses. And as we know, third graders are so unkind.

That year was the absolute worst that I had experienced so far.  I dealt with mean girls for the first time, experienced “frenemies” even though the term wasn’t established in 1998, and finally felt for the first time that I didn’t have a best friend. I was called all of the names in the book and I thought it couldn’t get any worse. It did.

Fourth and fifth grades weren’t terrible as I’d finally found a group of friends and was reunited with my former elementary school friends when we went to intermediate school in fifth grade. But when we went into sixth grade, something changed. I don’t know if it was the hormones or what, but it became a free-for-all. I would cry every single day because of this one particular football player whose goal seemed to be to make me miserable.

But when I finally entered middle school, things went from bad to worse. I didn’t make the cheerleading team either year. I didn’t play an instrument, so I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I began taking my first honors classes. Every day the popular kids would tease me about a boy that I liked, telling me that he liked me and wanted me to go to the dance with him. When I asked him about it, he had no idea what I was talking about. I was absolutely humiliated. It was like something out of a movie.

Finally, one teacher saw my struggle.  She cornered a boy who teased me the most one day. I have no idea what happened in that room between them, but afterwards the boy apologized and never teased me again. Things started to turn around and though my self-esteem wasn’t nearly rebuilt until I was 16, things got better.

As awful as this all was, I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. The bullying didn’t push me to self-harm. It didn’t break me to the point of no return. I had teachers that stood up for me. But what about those that don’t? My parents always made me feel beautiful and like I was worth something. But what about those that don’t have parents like that?

It took a few years, but I was finally able to recover from the emotional toll that this had on me. It seems like nowadays you hear about children, because that’s what they are, taking their own lives because of bullying. How is that okay? What are we doing to educate and support them?

I don’t have children yet, and I don’t know what I’ll tell them about bullying when they finally reach that age. But I do know that I will try to instill in them a sense of self worth and of respecting others. To teach them that we are all worthy of each other’s respect and love.

How did/will you teach your children about bullying?

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