Through my work in public relations and as a researcher and writer, I am attached to and work indirectly with the problem of bullying.
And it is a problem – a big problem. We have always had bullying, but with today's electronic communication, and ability to anonymously – or proudly attach your name – you can post or transmit a nasty comment about someone that is visible to the world, or soon can be visible to the world.
Before I go on, I will come clean here. I was involved in bullying a kid when I was a youngster. And it was stupid and wrong. I did this bullying as part of group that bullied. Again, it was stupid and wrong.
There are a lot of smart and committed people, and effective and productive organizations, now combating the bullying. Young people are being invested and empowered with the information and tools to deal with bullying. All of this is good.
I want to emphasize here the importance of parents in anti-bullying efforts.
For sure, all the smart anti-bullying protocols and curricula and all that make parents a part of the process. I would just hope that all parents know just how important and influential they can be in putting an end to and heading off bullying.
And if a parent thinks that stopping bullying is only the job of someone else – e.g. school officials and youth sports coaches – then they surely shouldn't be nominated for any “parent of the year” awards any time soon.
Parents – HEAR THIS! – if you know that your kid is bullying someone then it is your job to step in and put an end to it. Parents – HERE THIS! – if your kid is being bullied, then you need to provide all the support and compassion in the world, and then seek the right measures available to you and your child to quash the bullying.
A couple summers back, I saw a mother, a very good mother, in a private setting, verbally giving her daughter the riot act about the daughter – who was about to start 7th grade – and her friends were ostracizing this boy of the same age, who had been in the same social group as the daughter and the friends.
The mother wanted to get to the bottom of the matter. The daughter told her mother that the boy was acting like a jerk and that's why he wasn't in the group anymore. Not sure how it turned out – but I happy that the mother wanted to get involved and find out what was up.
Another thing, and sometimes parents can miss this – for a number of reasons: maybe they are too busy (then again, I submit – and I don't care how professionally successful you are or how much money you make – if you don't have enough time to stay helpfully involved in the life of your child, then you are too busy professionally and your priorities are out of wack); maybe they are responsibly involved in the lives of their kids, but the bullying has been concealed; maybe they do know and don't care; maybe they are clueless.
What I find immensely disquieting, and this happens as a result often of the hyper-competitive social economic race we have here in Easton and in so many places, is that there are some cold and jerk parents who have some money who convey and transmit – whether subtly or not so subtly – to their kids that the parents are upper class, and that their kids are upper class, and that the kids have a reason and an entitlement to comporting themselves a little better than others.
This attitude can support children who are pompous and irresponsible and lacking empathy. It can also foster the qualities of a bully.
Also absolutely precious are the parents of the “pretty girls.” Those parents who revel and get so uppity about themselves about their little princess and prom queen daughters. Little princesses and prom queen daughters will use this enthusiasm to hang around and form a tight bond with other princesses and prom queen daughters.
Oftentimes, if you are not one of the pretty girls then it is made known that you can't be in the clique.
This brings us to the various forms of bullying. It is not all about overt and very deliberate and identifiable physical acts, or something actually said, or something actually posted on the Internet. Bullying sometimes takes on the form of what that mother whom I referred to earlier in this column tried to stop: ostracizing and not allowing someone to be in the group.
Being involved and camaraderie are so important to the emotional well being of young people. When they are deprived of it then it is very painful. Loneliness and not being able to belong are very painful.
On the subject of painful, here I relate to you a story – and I give credit to the guy who told me this story – about something that happened decades ago when he was a student at Easton Junior High School.
He – we'll call him Jeff (his name wasn't Jeff) – told me of how, unlike almost everyone else in his grade, he had been friendly to this one kid, a boy – we'll call him Al (his name wasn't Al) – who was a bit strange and not the, let's say, most hygienic.
So Al, the kid with almost no friends, had been hurting being on the outside, and the guidance office got involved. A guidance counselor brought in for a chat both boys, the hurting and the one who had been friendly. The guidance counselor asked Al if perhaps he could become a friend of Jeff's. Jeff responded that that would be difficult and that he didn't really want to do it because of issues it might bring about in his, Jeff's, social standing.
Now, don't get all furious at Jeff. He was in junior high. He has grown up to be one hell of a giving person, and a superb husband and father. And it also says something about him that he admits to his conduct from way back.
It is just that these things happen – and it is good that these things are discussed.
Another thing – any parent who directly and knowingly takes part in the bullying of a child or adolescent, then this about you is sure: you are among the filthiest and most despicable creatures on this planet.
Parents and other mentors get involved. Help out. We shouldn't rely on schools and organizations – and on “official” people in authority to handle and jump on the bullying problem.
Making society more livable, safer, more nurturing and more fun is the responsibility of the person, the family, and the village.
I will leave you with a bit of "feel good."
That kid, the one I called Al, the guy who was on the outside and a loner and didn't have many friends.
Well, a few years later, in high school, Oliver Ames High School, he was being taunted by someone who was known to be a fairly tough and scrappy kid. Al it seems had had enough.
Al went after his tormentor and laid a fast and efficient licking on him.
In the broader cosmos, that moment was truly about feel good.