Call It What It Is….

It seems to be an epidemic. You hear about it on the news. You hear about it in newspapers. You hear about it in magazines. Authors write books on it; psychologists write articles about it. News reporters share stories about it.

And yet….do we even know what it means?

According to our good friend, Webster, bullying means to frighten, hurt, or threaten (a smaller or weaker person) : to act like a bully toward (someone): to cause (someone) to do something by making threats or insults or by using force.

As a society, we need to watch our language. The word bullying encompasses so much now that it has nearly lost its meaning. Society is trying to generalize bullying, pack it all up into one big box, tie a ribbon on it, and call it done. But, it’s not that easy! The broad definition is a problem–and the temptation to label kids “bullies” isn’t particularly helpful. Very few kids are bullies all the time. We all play roles. Not all kids are bullies, but almost every kid (and adult) loses her temper and/or turns her back on a friend at some point. Instead, talk about the behavior. We give kids a chance to learn when we label behavior what it is: rude, disrespectful, dishonest, cruel. If we say instead, “You’re a bully…” we’ve done a disservice to them, their communities, and the kids they’ve targeted, because we’ve simply labeled them without addressing the behavior — and that label sticks for a long, long time.

In order to be bullying, it should have the following three things: hurtful, purposeful and repeatedly. I think the third one is the most critical. You can hurt someone’s feelings, perhaps even try to hurt their feelings, but it’s not bullying if it only happens once. There’s being unkind and then there’s bullying. Both need to be dealt with and be corrected, but bullying crosses the line from “normal, though negative children’s behavior” to “unacceptable” for us.

Well, I’ll be 100% honest. I have been in the schools for over 100 days this year, and I have only witnessed (TRUE) bullying ONE TIME!! ONE TIME in over 100 days, and I work with students now, all day, everyday….yes, I understand (and am not denying the fact) it happens, but my students are rarely without a teacher present. In fact, I can’t really think of a time (except maybe in the bathroom) where the students are not with a teacher (and even then a teacher is standing right outside the bathroom because students are not allowed to go to the restroom by themselves).

In my opinion, it’s not an epidemic (in our school)—our society is MAKING it one. An epidemic is something that it excessively prevalent; and to me, I don’t see it. Now, as mentioned above, I do see countless acts of unkindness, but not bullying. So, where does it come from?

1.)    Parents

I know; I am an excellent parent (because I am not one). Yes, I understand this is only my opinion, and I can say these things because I am not a parent, but….with that said.

If you want to call it bullying, that’s fine. You can even say that it’s a problem in society. But, it always has been (although I’m pretty sure we didn’t call it that when I was in school). We, as children/teenagers, were given the proper tools to handle it without thinking our world was going to end! We were taught, by our parents, to cope when things didn’t go our way. We were taught, by our parents, to buck up, to face the fact that life was not fair and to deal with it! We were given the tools to know that not all people are nice, and it doesn’t have to affect us, a person. We were also given the tools to know not to do the same thing to others (Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:9). And our parents were OUR PARENTS, not OUR FRIENDS!

We didn’t have parents up at the school, griping at our teachers to “fix it.” (We don’t get mad at the dentist when our children have cavities, so why do we get mad at teachers when our children fail a test or fail to turn in homework). Wake up, parents! Be a parent! Teach your child that the world is not centered on their happiness and stop trying to RESCUE your child! (Sorry, but it’s true)—

The children in our culture need to know that the world does not revolve around them. I have written about this before, but it bothers me that people say a family only exists when a couple has children. Paul and I are a family, and we do not have children. If we do ever have children, our children will join our already existing family, so they have to adapt to us (not the other way around). Our world spun before the baby ever came will continue to spin, despite having a baby.

Parents, please stop coddling your children. They are not fragile; they can (and will) break at some point….let them fall, let them fail.

Children need to be taught to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Like I mentioned above, children need to take responsibility for test grades and/or homework. In our district, I think they give WAY TOO MANY second chances! The kids get chance after chance to turn in homework or complete missing work—it’s a little ridiculous, if you ask me. When I was in school, if you didn’t turn in your work when it was due, you had one extra day to turn it in (for an automatic 70) or you earned a zero-that’s it, no exceptions! Shifting blame to someone else (a teacher, a sibling, a fellow classmate, a parent) does nothing and is a habit that, if continued, will be hard to break as an adult.

As parents, to a certain extent, you determine your child’s personality. Yes, I know they are born a certain way (Jeremiah 1:5), uniquely created by God, but you mold and shape who they become. If we, as adults, teach our children, discipline our children, and show them how to respect others, they will grow up to know and understand what it means to submit to authority and treat each other with kindness.

Speaking on authority, children need to be taught that parents, teachers, principals, policemen, church leaders, etc. are not out to make their lives miserable. Authority figures do not wake up every day thinking of ways to call out or discipline children. (I think some of the kids in our school think that, but it’s not true). So, if we teach our kids to UNDERSTAND authority and to obey those who are trying to PROTECT them and do what is BEST for them, life will ultimately be a lot more enjoyable for them. When kids realize they don’t run the show and they aren’t allowed to do whatever comes into their rapidly moving brains, they’ll make more responsible choices.

2.)    Schools

I am about to start my 4th straight week of teaching all day, every day. I have given this particular speech several times to my P.E. classes. And it goes something like this….

“You don’t have to be friends with everybody. You don’t even have to like everybody in your class, but you need to be respectful. You need to show a little kindness. If someone is bothering you, walk away. You don’t have to hang out with the same people every day. Find somewhere else to play. Everyone has a bad day, now and then. Everyone has a day when they just don’t feel good or someone else has hurt their feelings, so they are taking out on you. You may not agree with everything someone says or does. Learn to ignore and walk away. You don’t have to be involved in EVERY conversation, in EVERY class, in EVERY situation. Sometimes it’s better if you walk away, so you don’t get in trouble later for something that might happen. You don’t have to like everyone, but you are to be mean, rude, or unkind to no one.”

In my opinion, we (parents/teachers/administrators) have taught our children (in the schools) to TELL THE TEACHER if anything happens. Well, goodness, that drives me crazy!! It’s all I hear all day long…..tattle-telling.

  • ·         “He’s looking at me!”
  • ·         “He’s bothering me!”
  • ·         “He won’t stop talking!”
  • ·         “He’s touching my book!”
  • ·         “He’s kicking the chair leg!”

The counselor at our school told me something a couple of weeks ago that I really have tried to implement in my area (P.E.). There’s a difference between tattling and telling.

I ask….”Are you tattling?” (Usually the answer is yes, and they walk away before the words ever come out of their mouth!)”

Tattling is telling on someone to get them into trouble and telling (or reporting) is telling about something to help someone keep out of trouble.

Nine times out of ten kids are tattling because they want to get someone in trouble not because they are trying to keep someone out of trouble!

We (parents/teachers/administrators) have also taught our children to ASK FOR HELP if they don’t understand something. Well, goodness, this drives me crazy, too! If I’m in the regular classroom, it’s all I hear all day…..

  • “What do I do?”
  • “I don’t understand.”
  • “I don’t get it.”

My response: “Read the directions!”

Students need to make a concerted effort to TRY before I will even help them!! This isn’t being mean; it’s teaching them to at least attempt to solve the problem/question themselves before just giving up and asking for help. If we answer every question or explain every direction, we are enabling them. And this will lead to a life-long struggle of never learning to do anything on their own, and that’s a hard road to walk, as an adult!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

So, all of this to say….I realize the world is unkind. I live in it, too. In fact, Christ calls us to live IN the world, just to not be a part OF the world (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). God calls us to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19) so that we may live and love the Lord and obey His voice.

I do realize the reason why some people act the way they do (label it “bullying” if you want to), say the things they say (using unkind words), and do the things they do (object authority)  is because they do not have Christ as a part of their life. But, I will say….I know MANY PEOPLE who claim to follow Christ who still act like jerks, so it’s not as “black and white” as you may seem.

Abraham Lincoln spoke wise words when he said, “It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and resolve all doubt.”

And I will leave you with this….

“The kindest word in all the world is the unkind word, unsaid.”

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