“Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours brighter!” – Anonymous student
Imagine being a parent and receiving an email or phone call from your child’s teacher informing them of the bad behavior your child displayed in class. There are three base commonalities in parent reactions to this including, “my child doesn’t act like this at home”, “don’t call me about what you can’t control” and “how can I help get them back on track?” Teachers and support staff have to make a lot of difficult phone calls about student behavior and discipline. A parent’s worst nightmare is hearing that their child is being bullied by another peer(s) but deepening the wound is learning that your child is the actual bully.
At a recent community event, one Atlanta parent shared her and her son’s experience with bullying. Her son, Chance, is a gifted, talented, non aggressive, happy, sociable, high energy and helpful child. During this school year, Chance’s mother began to notice drastic changes in his behavior. After seeking counsel, it took Chance a long time to finally tell the family counselor and his family what was happening to him at school. Over time, Chance, possibly out of fear or embarrassment, began to share about his experience with bullying and to identify the aggressors within his school. The assaults, harassing encounters, bullying interactions and the fact that the school has a policy which doesn’t incorporate restorative justice and PBIS strategies all brought on a strong sense of advocacy in Chance’s mom. “I can’t imagine this happening to my child. I can’t stay silent while it happens to others children!” After review of the school policy, it does simply place the aggressor immediately in the same classroom, buses and activities with little to no restorative justice taking place. So naturally, the very next day the same bully attacks the same exact victims day, after day, after day. Chance also indicated that other children in his school also had been or are experiencing bullying. Chance’s mother asked the questions, “how does this effect children being bullied and their village (i.e. family, friends, teachers and staff), and more importantly what can we do to stop bullying?
Bullying by the Mental Health Association is described as aggressive behavior displayed by an individual to another person or group of people. Aggressive behavior can stem from several things including what children witness and/or experience in the home, community or in areas away from school and home; messages displayed through media especially social media, social and news outlets including TMZ, WorldStar, CNN and local news. How children see adults interact, resolve conflicts, forgive, respectfully disagree and work through difficult situations is what they do. Children model the behaviors of adults. More schools are now turning to social emotional learning (SEL) methods, PBIS, restorative justice and other behavior interventions to help students choose better pathways of expression and engagement towards and with others. Bullying in schools doesn’t start a school, it begins with the environments outside of the classroom that influence children.
Ways to identify signs that their children may be experiencing bullying:
- Isolation from peers, siblings and others
- Avoidance of conversations about schools
- Lack of excitement about school and activities
- Change in dress/attire
- Behavior and engagement with others within the home
- Emotional indicators i.e. excessive crying, being afraid, not wanting to connect with others, etc.
- Depression i.e. nightmares, worrying, etc.