BULLYING: RECOGNIZING IT

by olivia black

Josh was a small kid, in high school. He guesses he weighed about 70 pounds as a freshman. Of course, there were kids who had developed faster, but there were also a number of kids in Josh’s size 5 shoes. Teens will be teens, and bullying is apparently what you do. 


Fortunately, Josh was smart. He took several advanced classes – with much bigger sophomores, juniors, and seniors, who seemed to take a liking to mini-Josh for some reason. There were a couple of kids in high school who plucked his nerves. Bullies will beat you down daily and won’t cease unless you either stand up to them or stop going to school, both options which were not convenient. But everyone has their limit, even 70 pounders. 

One day, Josh found an old iron rod in someone’s trash which was short enough to hide in his backpack. He was determined to use it to beat the living dogsnot out of the ringleader – in self-defense, of course. Sitcoms had taught him that if he decapitated the head of the snake, the bullying would end. Josh says he actually believed that. Josh devised a plan. He watched the bully’s patterns, knew where his locker was, found when he was most vulnerable, and was ready to execute the attack. Josh admits he was scared, shaking, and probably would have chickened out. Josh figured he would talk to the bully alone and give him a chance to chill, which Josh now realizes probably would have failed miserably. Fortunately, just before Josh was going to attack, one of his bigger buddies happened to walk by and playfully pounced this kid into his locker, knocking him over. The big kid rubbed Josh’s small head as he walked by laughing. Josh laughed and walked away. 

 

Suddenly, Josh was vindicated. The bully’s teasing no longer bothered him. Josh’s attitude changed as he began to stand up to him, slowly shutting him down. Eventually, the bully found another victim. 

 

Josh’s entire outlook changed, that day. He became uber-confident. He no longer allowed himself to become a target, and was never bullied in school again. But it doesn’t always work out that way. That kid could have died, Josh might have ended up in juvie, and who knows where that could have led. Josh admits he was one of the lucky ones.

Bailey O’Neil was an 11-year-old 6th grader, in a suburban Philadelphia school, who was punched in the nose in a schoolyard, in a bullying incident, during recess. Administrators sent him back to class with an icepack. Days later, he began to suffer from seizures and was admitted to the hospital. He was placed in a medically induced coma, to allow the swelling in his brain to subside. A day before his 12th birthday, little Bailey O’Neil passed away. Before he died, Bailey told his father that he tried to walk away, but another bully pushed him into the kid who’d hit him. The bullies were reportedly suspended for two days.

 

And then there’s Amanda Todd, a pretty 15-year-old Canadian teen who endured one torment after another, in the years leading up to her death: sexual exploitation online, cyberbullying, and a physical assault at school. Amanda made a sophomoric error at age 12 and flashed her chest to some idiot on a webcam. That idiot posted her photo all over the internet. Kids are harsh, and they never let Amanda forget it, with a constant barrage of teasing and taunting. Amanda couldn’t take it any longer, and she took her own life.
Bullying doesn’t just happen in the schoolyard. It happens at home as well. And sometimes, even worse. Sibling rivalry is a cancer that will destroy even the best F.U.

Peggy and Kate were about five years apart in age. Peggy, the oldest, had always treated Kate like a subhuman schmuck. Predictably, Kate idolized her older sister. The moment anyone, be that a stranger, parent, or sibling, said anything even mildly offensive to Peggy, Kate was the first person to defend her. It wasn’t uncommon for Kate to treat her mother, father, and anyone else with disrespect and disdain. But Kate never once raised her voice towards Peggy. As is typical in any abusive relationship, when you beat someone down for long enough, they become ambivalent. It’s expected. It’s acceptable. And eventually, it’s wanted. Apparently, 14 years of abuse was long enough for silly little Kate to feel she needed to defend her abuser. I figured she was pretty much screwed up for life, and recommended therapy to her mother.

 

One day, Kate woke up from her conscious slumber and a light bulb went off in her mind. She realized that her sister was rather bitchy, and that she was wasting her time in idolizing her. Kate’s entire perspective turned around, that day, and Kate now had her shit together. Kate had newly found confidence, friends, and a direction in life. Peggy was still trying to find herself, living in the desperate shadows of her lackluster boyfriend.

 

A few months later, Kate fell back into her funk. There she was, once again defending her evil abusive sister. It happens more often than you think.
Sibling disagreements are completely normal and may be healthy in many cases. Your children will learn to master critical corporate skills including indirect insulting, excusable sarcasm, deflecting blame, avoiding responsibility, and, hopefully, compromise and negotiation. You, as the parent, will need to be the judge, jury, and/or mediator. And you need to pay attention to stop it before it becomes damaging.Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to do the right thing, and this will never be an issue. 

Contrary to what you might believe, the oldest sibling may not always be the dominant one. A younger brother or sister may be smarter, bigger, faster, better looking, or, if nothing else, they may appear to excel in certain categories a sibling considers temporally important. This will really upset the older kid, although you may never be aware of this. Elder children assume they should logically be better at everything and get to do everything first, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

 

The middle child complex is a real malady. Your older children tend to have relatively complex needs, and we amateur parents typically spend much more time figuring how to fulfill those needs the first time around. Your younger children require a different type of more frequent and immediate attention. This often leaves middle children in a situation in which he or she may feel left out, even if they’re really not, leading to insecurity and sometimes depression. Make sure you recognize this situation, which will usually, but not always, be evidenced by one or more episodes of angry and ostensibly illogical temper tantrums. Ensure your middle kids believe they’re getting the attention they too deserve. This may be as simple as a few frequent reminders like, “See? I did your laundry too. And I fed you your favorite meal. And I didn’t forget to pick you up from school today!”

 

Step-siblings are a growing category. Mixed families are very common, and may introduce what sibling shock into your child’s previously cozy narcissistic environment. Your youngest may suddenly be thrust into the middle child position, and adjustments may be difficult due to timing, jealousy, and associated childhood insecurities. Just be sure to keep this in mind and discuss it with your partner and the affected children.Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to do the right thing, and this will never be an issue. 

Bullying happens. And it can happen in many different ways, some subtle, some very open. Some kids, for many varied reasons – most of which are unimportant, unfounded, and often seemingly irrelevant – are scared to death of being ridiculed. An overwhelming sense of impending failure and self-doubt clouds their opportunities to shine and advance. How can you identify those kids? Simple. They’re the ones who look exhausted from laughing the loudest when even the slightest misfortune falls upon someone else. This type of deflection can be incredibly draining. But this is bullying as well.

 

You, as a busy parent, may never be aware that it’s happening. One of your jobs is to protect your children. You need to pay attention and be in tune with your child’s moods and activities. If you suspect bullying, no matter what they tell you, he or she needs your support. You will need to recognize certain bullying warning signs, including but not limited to the following: 

 

  • Marked change in typical behavior or personality. Appears clingy, sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed and that mood lasts with no known cause.

  • More insecure than usual. Talks about feeling helpless, remarks about “killing myself.”

  • Sudden aversion to friends or social media. Doesn’t want to go to school.

  • Unexplained marks, cuts, bruises and scrapes. Afraid to ride the school bus. 

  • Unexplained headaches or stomach aches.

  • Difficulty sleeping.

  • Loss of clothes, school supplies, electronics, clothing, lunches, or money

  • Sudden and significant drop in grades. Difficulty focusing and concentrating.

  • Bullies siblings or younger kids. 

 

You will probably have to ask leading questions to get your child to feel confident or safe enough to open up. Ask them about tears in clothing, missing items, mood swings, or bruises. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know if something is not quite right. If your child won’t talk to you, check with a teacher or someone else at school, who might have a clue. Subtly ask your kid’s friends what’s going on. Tell your kid that you are always there to talk, and it’s your job to help. If you can’t get anywhere, but you suspect something is wrong, seek the help of a trained mental health professional, sooner rather than later. 

A friend mentioned that his son being bullied in the local middle school. I can personally attest that children in middle school, and especially the male varietal, are the worst jerks they’ll ever be. My friend is no wuss — he’s actually a big, scary looking dude. And his kid isn’t all that small either. His son got wrapped up with the wrong bunch of idiots, and his life is miserable. His son is depressed and hates going to school. His grades are suffering. Fortunately, he has spoken with his father about it. At least he has a vent. When Josh, the kid we talked about earlier, told his father he was bullied in middle school, he laughed at him and smacked him around a bit to “teach him a lesson.”

 

Unfortunately, no matter what you do, no matter what your school administrators say, and no matter what threats are implemented by school districts, city governments, and state law enforcement, you are often powerless to fight bullying. You have no authority as a parent, and the bullies know this. You can’t beat it, because you can’t go to school with your children to protect them. The world is not yet mature enough to tolerate smart, small, weak, or quiet humans.

 

I can summarize my advice to him in one single word: MOVE. He had no choice if he wanted to save his child. Get him or her out of the situation the moment you become aware of it. Move out of town if you can. Change school districts. Home or virtual school your child for a few years. It sounds dramatic, but this may save your child’s confidence — or his or her life.

Lamar Hawkins’ mother arrived at the school to pick up her son about 5 p.m. Wednesday, but he wasn’t there. At about 7 p.m., the family went to law enforcement to report the boy missing. Deputies searched the family’s neighborhood and surrounding area. When they began searching the school, they found the boy. Lamar, who was small for his age, committed suicide at Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Lake Mary, Florida after being bullied, Morgan said. The boy’s mother, Shaniqua Hawkins, fought back tears at a news conference and blamed bullies for pushing her son over the edge, saying she tried doing everything possible to help him. Her husband, Lamar Hawkins Sr., sat by her side. The mother said she felt paralyzed by the inability to stop the bullying. “It was a feeling I hope no other parent has to fear,” she said. “They won, because he took his life as a result.” Had they moved their boy, he might still be here.

 

Tricia Norman, whose 12-year-old daughter, Rebecca Sedwick, jumped to her death in September 2013 from a tower at an abandoned cement plant in Lakeland, Florida after months of alleged cyberbullying might have been able to save her daughter had she known about the bullying and pulled the plug.


Now, if you suspect your little angel is the bully, you need to collar that prick as soon as possible. Bullying laws are finally beginning to pop up with zero tolerance policies, holding you as a parent legally or financially accountable. Having a child who’s thrown out of school can be socially embarrassing and financially inconvenient for you, the parent. Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to do the right thing, and this will never be an issue. 

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