Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kudos for a New Approach to Bullying

I have to give kudos to a Massachusetts school district which has outlawed celebratory birthday party clothing in school. Now what does that mean? It has become de rigeur especially in middle school parties, to give out party favors with the birthday child's name on the t-shirt or hoodie. The children who attended that party would wear the party favor the next Monday in school. I remember as my boys went through middle school and there were myriads of bar and bat mitzvahs, the children would wear the "party clothing favors" the following Monday to show everyone which celebrations they had been invited to. Of course, my children never got to wear any celebratory clothing as they were never invited to any parties.

When your child  is bullied, alienated and ostracized by their peers, the idea that your child's aloneness is even more pronounced at times can come as a devastating reality to your child and yes to you as well. The idea that other children can torment your son or daughter in just one more way is hurtful, harmful and psychologically destructive. It has been acknowledged that those who are chronically bullied suffer from a form of PTSD. In our house we have first hand knowledge of this phenomenon, because we are certain that CM1 suffered from PTSD for years after he left our school district. It took years of therapy and understanding to get him to come out of his shell and to think that there may be human beings out there who could be kind to him.

It has already been proven that 95% of those with aspergers or an autism spectrum disorder report that they are bullied in school. More than 75% of all students report that they have been bullied at some time in their educational life. The idea that there is some way to mitigate this nasty tendency among their peers is welcome.

So here I am watching Fox News Saturday (yes I like Fox News don't start heavy breathing), its Christmas Eve Day and they have a discussion about this ban on party favor clothing. Here comes along this mommyblogger, ElizabethEsther, to say that she thinks the ban is a bad thing. Children need to learn to persevere. They should in essence buck up and deal with it. It will give them a real world view on how to handle problems. Of course, the psychologist on the program explains about the alienation and the tendency to use the clothing as a weapon in bullying. He explains that school is NOT the real world and it should be a safe place for everyone.

So I send the mommyblogger a tweet:

you have never had a child ostracized, alienated or bullied. For a person who invokes God u lack compassion

Needless to say she was rather incensed. Told me her child had been bullied and that she never said she had God on her side. (which is not what I said). I told her that her lack of compassion was upsetting.

She then retweeted my tweet so all her followers could harass me. I guess God fearing people can't be told they are wrong. Would you believe there are people coming to her defense. Apparently if you don't allow children to be bullied they will turn into OWS members. Seriously, got that tweet from one of her tweinds.

Someone needs to tell this blogger and her followers that Lord of the Flies is not a parenting how-to manual, but a warning about children and their propensity for ostracism, alienation, and the cruelty of bullying.... Its a warning that adults do need to intervene in their children's lives,  teaching children right from wrong, ethics, morals, compassion and acceptance. Yes it is also a major allegorical story, but it has upfront lessons to teach as well.

By the way, Merry Christmas. I believe this is the birthday of the Lamb of God.

What do you think? Or better yet, what would Jesus think?

Until next time,


UPDATE: By the way I just had an additional thought. 

Just because you don't think or know that you are bullying someone doesn't mean you are not. As I mention continuously, we love The Big Bang Theory in this house. In the latest episode Leonard confronts a bully from his youth. In the meantime, the Penny Posse sit down and go over some events from Penny's childhood. It became apparent that Penny was a bully. She had no idea and never thought she necessarily hurt anyone. The episode was how she tried to apologize but it was just too late for some.

The upshot of the story is that our actions matter and that we as parents truly need to take responsibility for what our children are doing. Teach them right from wrong and how their actions do have a long lasting effect on others. In fact perhaps, those who think they do not harm anyone else by their actions, or that a simple t-shirt has no effect, need to think again.

Watch the episode HERE.

P.S. For those who are wondering what we did when the boys were bar mitzvahed, we invited their entire teams. Noone was left off the list, even the children that were not always so nice to both the boys. I knew the bullies and their minions would not come, and if they had they would have been welcomed.

My oldest child had only 9 out of 50 children invited come, as I said, he was severely ostracized and even those who were not the  "bully posse" did not want to stick up for him. So many of the other students did not bother to come to the celebration. You just did not act nice to CM1.Their loss of course. Meanwhile we had invited dozens of people with their children so it ended up a big kids party anyway.

Meanwhile CM2 had all invited children come. It was a noisy, happy, overly stimulating game room party organized just for teens. It was expected that if you were invited you came to that party. It would have been unthinkable for someone not to come unless they had to go to grandma and grandpa's house. As I have always said, same school district, different year, better parents. Without question, it all really does depend on the upbringing. (Interestingly there was only one girl that did not come to CM2's party. Her brother was part of the "bully posse" that had picked on CM1.)

And yes we gave out tie-dye t-shirts for CM1's party and hoodies for CM2's party. Yes the children all wore them the next Monday to school. But either you had been invited and just did not come (CM1) or everyone in the class had one (CM2), so noone was left out. Everyone knew that they had been welcome. I practice what I preach.


Aspie Kid said...

I disagree with the person who said school is not the real world. When you have to go there every day and live within the rules of the institution, it is very much the real world.

I have mixed thoughts about banning clothing to prevent bullying. How many other things will we need to ban in order to make people accept each other? If people could stop being so clique-oriented we wouldn't need to ban anything at all.

Bullying starts in school, but it doesn't end there. It leads to workplace politics, cronyism, domestic abuse, psychological abuse, police brutality, sexual harassment, and lots of other social problems. It's a bullying culture, learned during childhood and perfected during adulthood. The problem runs much deeper than just the rules in our school systems. Just my opinion....

Elise said...

Aspie Kid- I think that if you teach compassion, understanding and acceptance in school, there would be less bullying in the adult world. Listen there are always going to be asshats wherever you go. The trick is learning not to be the asshat and learning how to handle them too.

But I disagree with you that school is the real world. Its not. School is the place you go to learn, and to prepare for an adult future. You should never be afraid to go to school. In school you get lots of do-overs, second chances and have more than one type of right curtailed.

Also in the real world there are laws against every form of adult bullying that you named.What you need to do is learn to access these rights. Something that if taught self-respect and self-esteem you can do as an adult. But if you are burdened by being a victim, it will happen your entire life. School needs to teach about that too.

mamafog said...

I don't think you will ever change that blogger's mind.

I'm not sure how I feel. I would worry that banning the shirts would just give rise to some other clique-y type item, and perhaps further ostracize those being left out.

It does make me wonder if parents need educating regarding bullying even more than the students.

Elise said...

mamfog- I agree. I will never changer her mind, as evidenced by the tweet she sent me. In fact she says her child has adhd and was bullied. I then told her it was her lack of compassion that was upsetting. She never responded to that.

I agree. it is the parents that need educating about bullying. Without their parents either acceptance and lack of proper parenting, bullying would not be at such heights as it is today.

Whitman said...

I think banning this or that kind of clothing expressing some kind of social (or economic) status would be a slippery slope. But this story makes an great case for school uniforms.

The GodMom will not be persuaded to think ill of herself because is is the GodMom. But could she be inspired to help the school pursue a Higher Purpose of inspiring a School Spirit of Learning instead of social oneupmanship?

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Elise said...

Whitman- agree, I think this definitely makes a great case for uniforms. said...

I didn't even know those shirts existed! Probably because my son is never invited to parties. I try to work on both sides 1) the school should control what goes on there. There are laws and rules at work as well as you stated. If I invite everyone but one person to happy hour that is my choice (not that I would just saying hypothetically) but if we all show up the next day and rub it in we would be disciplined. 2) I have also tried to teach my child to be resilient. However since I was bullied and left out as a child I know that no matter how resilient a person is that treatment in school leaves lasting scars.

I also think that if it is controlled in school it might be better after school because people won't have learned that behavior. And as a person gets older it is a little easier to deal with being left out (sometimes anyways).

This bullying culture needs to stop at all ages. So yes I agree that the education needs to happen with adults and kids. Bullying can have such horrible lasting results.
Sorry I am babbling I need to sleep but been meaning to stop by your blog all day. I saw some of this on your timeline. Clearly that other person on twitter would never see that they are wrong about anything.

Elise said...

aspieside- thanks for stopping by. It's amazing really just how clueless people happen to be. I guess it takes being bullied and having kids bullied to really notice the effects. I doubt that any parent who had had a child really bullied would think its ok in any form. I also think that particular person on twitter has visited other blogs and goes on about the same topic too. I honestly think she needs help of some kind. As far as the useless person on Fox News, I think she did herself her own bit of damage. I can't be the only one she upset.
Hope you and yours had a nice holiday.

trishpip said...

Hmm, maybe there's a line drawn between "bullying" and "exclusion" in MommyBlogger's head, that she doesn't see the connection as no one is being physically hurt. The message sent by all the matching t-shirts is sort of, "all the cool kids were there.. why weren't you?" and that's the way my daughter would translate it - just another blast of "you're not one of us" that she gets every day in different ways. No one is actually walking up to her and telling her she doesn't belong or they don't like her, but she gets the message just the same.

Elise said...

trishpip- that is the point isn't it. Bullying is not all physical, its not all being openly told you are not wanted. Alot of it is subliminal. Like whenever CM1 would sit down in the lunch room at a table, all the other kids would purposely get up so they wouldn't have to sit with him. Noone said anything, but the message was clear.