Imagine going to school every day and being preoccupied. Another unpleasant incident is sure unfold – perhaps when least expected.
You’re on edge. You struggle to pay attention. Your work suffers. For thousands of students and many of our kids, this anxiety becomes a fact of life.
It’s called bullying. These days the typical outcome isn’t a black eye – but something more subtle yet just as intimidating. Words hurt, regardless of what anyone says.
And for children with language processing issues, they fixate on those words for days – reliving the moment over and over again. More intense each time.
Equally harmful is the silence of being totally ignored. Today’s cliques are brutal – fueled by social media. “Members” pass others in the hallway like they simply don’t exist.
The fall-out soon begins – with children long remembering the way they were made to feel. Most of us can relate. Four decades after the fact, one incident in junior high remains fresh in my mind.
Regardless of what any administrator says, NO public, charter or private school is immune. Bullying happens every day and often goes undetected. Unfortunately, some of the worst offenders are the students least expected to be out of line. As a result, they get away with their actions – empowered to bully again. A classic case of “he said, she said” – with the powerless having no voice.
In some cases, the victims fear retaliation.
Better to be safe and say nothing.
One incident with my youngest son reinforces that point. In fourth grade he sang at his school talent show before an evening crowd of supportive families, teachers and friends. With the show such a hit, the principal announced an encore performance the following day for the entire student body.
Well, some things don’t turn out as expected.
Although my son sang impressively, two boys cornered him in the bathroom at the end of day. Each took turns verbally assaulting him.
What started as a very special day turned into a nightmare!
For years I didn’t hear about that incident, because my son was embarrassed. He was also sure of my response, “Ignore the fools, and they will stop.” Even though he had already convinced himself that it would not.
Sadly, the damage was done. My son never sang a solo in public again. If I want to hear his wonderful voice, I must stand quietly outside his bedroom door.
Looking back, I should have noticed the warning signs.
Loss of interest
Increased negative self-talk
Passive aggressive behavior at home and school
Self-esteem is fragile. Therefore, we must guard the dignity of our children and not be afraid to listen. And I mean really listen – not just hear. Never shame.
Later, my daughter made an interesting point about her middle school years. When teachers actively monitored the hallways, bullying happened much less frequently. If it did, administrators dealt with the perpetrators swiftly.
But once backs were turned, bullying reared its ugly head in an instant.
No doubt, the next victim could be someone you know. Perhaps your niece, grandchild or neighbor’s son. Maybe your own child.
Let’s all keep our eyes open and stop bullying before it starts. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s progress in writing a book about raising his six children with special needs, click here. Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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