When I was in middle school, I was bullied. At the time, there wasn’t all this talk and publicity about bullying so I didn’t even know I was bullied until over a decade later. I mean, I wasn’t being physically assaulted so I didn’t think to call the kids’ behavior bullying. The teacher never really stopped it and he was standing there most of the time, so it must not have been that bad.
Let me describe to you what was happening and you tell me if it was bullying. When I was in middle school I attended a small 7-student, 2-room Christian grade school that was the closest thing to being Amish without actually being Amish. My parents worked at a small Bible college on the East coast and the grade school was for the children of the staff who worked there at the college. There were strict rules. Girls had to wear long skirts and boys had to wear long pants- definitely no mini skirts, shorts or sleeveless shirts. We were only supposed to listen to hymns and classical music. Music that had syncopation or drums in it were of the devil. We weren’t allowed to watch TV unless it was the news or a documentary. We were supposed to be vegan and refrain from all caffeine. These were rules that had a lot of spiritual weight in this community, meaning that if you broke these rules, you were practically sinning against God.
Naturally, when you are in such a closed community, kids like to rebel. Actually, a lot of kids like to rebel regardless. Anyways, the things these students did to “rebel” were eat cheese, wear pants (for the girls), or watch a movie. Well, I was an angel child who followed all the rules to the letter. So they made fun of me. On several occasions some of the kids gathered around me and literally held my head and tried to pry open my mouth to put goldfish cheese crackers in my mouth. Some of them would tease me because I had some clothes from Wal-Mart when they had clothes from Gap. Kind of comical now that I think about that one. They all watched the new hit movie “Titanic” and gave me grief about it because I hadn’t watched it. To this day I haven’t watched it. I should watch it since it’s such a great movie, but I am not a big fan of romance.
So, I was bullied. I was such an angel child and I didn’t want to “gossip” so I never told anyone, not even my family. My family actually knew about it because the college students majoring in education witnessed some of it and told my sisters. My three older sisters were ready to beat the kids down to a pulp but I was strangely quiet about it. My teacher made a small yearbook for the school at the end of the year and each of the kids apologized for being mean to me when they signed my yearbook. So the story ends well.
Now that I look back, I kind of admire myself and wonder if I have that same strength today. You see, those kids were acting dumb and should have been stopped, but I could handle it. As parents, we want to rush in to be the hero every time our children hit a hard spot in their lives. I don’t think I could stand by and watch kids treating my children that way. But I am thankful I went through all of that because it taught me a lot. I learned to not value myself by what I did or didn’t have. To a large extent, I learned to not care about what other people think of me.
Parents, if you have a very strong and healthy relationship with your child and that child is having problems at school and they don’t say anything to you, it probably means they can handle it. If my family had intervened, I think I would have been more embarrassed and I would have felt weak. However, if your child comes to you and expresses real concern about being bullied, please go through the proper protocol to deal with it. Your child needs you to be there for him/her. It doesn’t mean they are weak if they seek your help. It means they think you are strong.
I read in a book called, “Simplicity Parenting” (awesome book, by the way) about one way to deal with a situation where a child is having problems in school but not saying anything about it. The author knew something was wrong at school because his child was acting weird, but she was’t saying anything to him. So he went to school with her and just hung around her desk and classroom until school was about to start. After about a week of doing this, the child was completely fine. The author still doesn’t know why or how it helped. His presence could have deterred the other kids from giving her a hard time, or she could have felt comforted by the presence of her father. Either way, it was a very nonaggressive way of being there for your child in a hard time.
Here are some reasons I was able to come out of that situation better, stronger, and happier.
- I had a very solid family. I am from a family of 7 children, so although there might have been 6 kids at school treating me horribly, I had 6 siblings at home who loved me. This is the number one reason why I had strength to see those kids at school everyday. Parents, please provide strong positive support at home for your kids. You never know what they are going through for 6-7 hours at school.
- I journaled almost everyday. The interesting thing is, I wrote very little of the negative. My main goal everyday was to document the stuff that made me laugh that day. I love going through and reading my journals because there are so many hilarious stories. Keeping a positive mind does amazing things to very negative situations.
- I knew I was better than what they cut me out to be. From an early age I was praised a lot for my good behavior and my academic skills. I knew having a good character, integrity, and resilience was more important than being “hip.” I cannot emphasize how important it is for your children to know that they are valuable from when they are babies and toddlers and what is truly valuable in life overall. This positive encouragement is imperative and needed by children BEFORE they hit a hard spot in their lives. They shouldn’t think they are the best in the world or anything, but they should have deep self-worth.
- As a Christian, this time in my life forced me to find rest and support in God when I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere else. Even though the community was supposed to be Christian, it was very far from it. I recognized that the true God in heaven was there for me. Even if you aren’t Christian, I think it’s important for children to understand that there is a big world out there full of good and evil. It’s their choice which one they want to promote.
- This last one is kind of embarrassing but I will be honest. I had a crush on a guy who was strict to the letter too. Of course that guy was in college so nothing ever happened, but little girls can dream.
The bullying that kids deal with today is quite different than it was two decades ago. Cyber bullying is something that can haunt a child even at home. The internet has incredible power that I am thankful I did not have to deal with when I was in middle school. I am also thankful there was no social media back then because those students in my small grade school all grew up to be great model citizens. Imagine if they had recorded their behavior and uploaded it onto YouTube like some kids do today. Who knows what kinds of trouble it could have gotten them into and how that would have affected their future choices. I may not be best friends with them or anything, but if one of them showed up in town, I would actually want to have lunch with them and I honestly think that we both would have a great time. Some kids bully because they are evil and malicious. Some kids bully because they are insecure and immature. Let’s raise our kids to not only NOT be bullies but to stand up for the kids who are being bullied.
(Note: This year was the only year that I had a difficult time. Other than that one year, my time at this small college campus was incredibly awesome. I spent my days swimming in the river, running through the woods, building a log cabin, learning valuable life skills and learning about God. These kids were not representative of what the college stood for, but amongst staff kids, I can’t honestly say it was an isolated incident.)