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Is Bullying a Necessary Part of Growing Up? MomTalk Q&A

How do parents and teachers separate the harmful from the harmless when it comes to kids picking on other kids?

Maybe you were never on the receiving end of the class bully. Or you stood by, grateful not to be in the crosshairs, as another child was ridiculed. Whatever the case, bullying is as alive today as it was when we were in school. Except the stakes are higher. It comes in the form of anonymous posts on social networking sites or threatening messages left on a child's cell phone. The text is mightier than the sword.

This new age of bullying has forced teachers and parents to take a more proactive approach. The "kids will be kids" adage doesn't work today and we can no longer use it to disregard malicious and harmful behavior. Schools take the zero tolerance approach, and that's a good thing. But does it soften our children and teach them not to protect themselves? Or to rely on others to do their bidding? "Use your words" or "just ignore him" are great advice, when they work. But what then?

So we asked:

Based on your experience, either as the victim or the perpetrator, how was the situation handled? If your child was the aggressor, were you receptive to whatever intervention was initiated by another parent or school official? If your child was the victim, how did you help him or her overcome?

Here's what the Patch Moms Council had to say.

Tracy Schorle, Oak Lawn

My daughter is only in preschool so to the extent of my knowledge she has not been the victim or perpetrator as it relates to bullying. That said, two weeks ago on two consecutive trips to school she faked a tummy ache — our instant thought was bullying. Sad but true, our immediate concern was someone was treating her poorly. We never did discover the issue but it is a sad statement as a society that it was our first thought.

Jan Kocek, Palos Heights

Having worked in elementary schools, I’ve seen a lot of bullying. It seems to have escalated over the past 5 years, especially in grades 4-8. At these ages children start narrowing down their circle of friends to a few “best friends”. Where I worked, a “no tolerance” stance was taken. Children who seemed to lack self-esteem or respect for themselves and/or others were involved in small group sessions with the counselor or one of the teachers. As soon as a bullying situation was brought to the attention of an adult, it was addressed immediately. Victim and bully were individually questioned as to what was going on. Then the two (or more) children directly involved were brought together. Acting as a mediator/facilitator, the adult guided the children to answer the questions “Why did this happen?” “What can you do to not let it happen again?” “If it does happen again, what should be the consequences?” The victim and bully were allowed to try to work things out between themselves. If the victim and bully couldn’t come to a compromise they were asked by the adult to avoid and ignore each other in and around school. Both were asked to tell an adult if the other one seemed to instigate a confrontation. Parents were asked to stay in contact with the school, either by phone or conference on a regular basis.

Deb Melchert, Tinley Park

I believe most bullying can be stopped if the schools, teachers, administration and parents get involved immediately, as soon as they are aware of the situation. You may all be interested in an NBC video we just watched it when it aired last week. Dateline NBC used hidden cameras to film teenagers in a bullying situation. I found it extremely interesting to see that most bullies will back down if someone will stand up for the person who is being picked on. Strength in numbers I guess.

Next week's topic: How have you, or how would you, address the topic of alcohol with your teen? Do you think allowing your teen a small glass of wine with dinner on occasion is wrong?

Patch's Moms Council addresses issues on the minds of parents, debates the pros and cons, and offers advice. Look for MomTalk Q&A every Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Lorraine Swanson (Editor) March 24, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Unfortunately, I do think bullying is a part of growing up and probably even necessary. It is heartbreaking to watch your child or any child get bullied. When I was young, I encountered bullies. They taught me to stand up for, and in some cases, defend myself. I think that bullies teach children a new set of social skills--dealing with difficult people and difficult situations. While we cannot control others we can control ourselves and our reactions. A bully's greatest power is psychological, I believe. When we stand up to them with our best conflict resolution skills, we conquer our fears.

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