We have a motto in our household. If you can add the words, “you idiot” to the end of any sentence, and it doesn’t sound out of place…you’ve said it wrong. Almost everyone has been guilty of this at one time or another. It’s all about the tone.
I bring this up in all of my workshops because it’s so important to know the difference between actual bullying and somebody having a bad attitude—both are annoying, but only one is bullying behavior.
I think one of the toughest lessons we taught our son when he was the target of significant bullying in elementary school was how to tell the difference. I wanted him to understand that even friends may hurt your feelings now and then, but that doesn’t make them bullies. It’s important to work it out, get past it and move on.
But once, he was pushed off the top of a 7-foot slide, and later that week pushed up against a wall and choked. That became a significant benchmark.
In our day-to-day lives, we all come in contact with those who rely on sarcasm to be funny—on occasion, it is—or simply have an abrasive personality. Perhaps, they can’t express themselves without a tinge of hostility, or handle even a minor disagreement without name-calling.
Who knows why? It doesn’t really matter. We don’t all have to be friends. Sometimes we just have to show enough mutual respect to get through the day. I encourage my kids, to smile, nod and walk away.
Bottom line—don’t engage.
But actual bullying isn’t always something children can handle so easily on their own. Over the past few years, many have shared with me their stories of significant bullying—some told of rocks being thrown at them on a daily basis, consistent humiliation and emotional abuse or verbal and physical attacks of all kinds, including being pushed down flights of stairs. They were targets and most feared for their safety.
Bullying is quite different from the occasional social dispute—although sometimes it's a fine line. The definition of bullying may seem a little vague to some, so I suggest going to http://www.stopbullying.gov if you’d like to get a clearer idea, as well as a few good tips when dealing with bullying behavior.
Unless you’ve parented a bullied child, it may be difficult to understand how this can impact your family. But trust me, it can become overwhelming.
Although it wasn’t easy, my son got through his experience and he allowed it to build his character. He learned to avoid revenge mentality, and put it behind him. Now he has great friends, and although he wishes he could have avoided being bullied, he’s chosen not to let it change his positive outlook on the future.
So far, so good.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children and 2010's Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.