It’s just a matter of weeks before those yellow school buses will be making their way around town again. The air will turn crisp, the leaves of red will burst out through town and the lights of the football stadium will glow on Friday nights around our beautiful county.
There is something else that will start too. It happens every years, sometimes we adults catch it, sometimes we don’t.
Bullying will again ramp up in the hallways, classrooms and playground of our schools. We as adults not only need to be aware, we need to be proactive.
We used to picture a bully as the angry kid with the torn shirt, dirty jeans and scrapes all over. It’s more insidious than that.
No, it’s not only the “mean girls”, just the “jocks” or one particular group. You might be surprised how unkind students can be to one another. How they take every moment to give out verbal jabs to those they think of as weak or different.
Last week I was talking to a young lady who has a beautiful heart. She is talented, compassionate and was considered “talented and gifted” in school. Sadly, she still battles the demons of bullying that started around ten years ago. It wasn’t always loud comments overheard by adults. It was the everyday, crushing insults made by peers intended to be cruel that she still hears in her thoughts. Many questions she asks herself can be traced back to rude comments during PE, reading groups or recess.
A friend of mine recently confronted another parent on her son’s behavior. The parent with the offending child replied, “Kids just need to find their pecking order. It’s natural for them to do that.” So, now we don’t give kids direction? Now we just go with what is natural? This is the same person who humiliated a student by picking her for an all-class dance contest, knowing that she was one of the girls who got picked on.
Sure enough, some of us chaperones watched in horror as the young girl took her turn and was booed by the other children in front of the entire grade. It must be indelible in that girl’s mind to this day.
Sometimes it isn’t just the words but the attitudes that accompany them. We all know those who were last to be picked for teams but do we remember the ugly things said by the captain that was stuck with that player? The echoing thoughts heard by precious human beings telling them they don’t measure up. Making them believe they are not acceptable.
It is a bigger deal than we have made of it and it’s time we adults lead the way. We have to take it seriously and stop acting like it isn’t our problem. We have to stop pretending that little comments don’t matter or that this is just the way kids find their way.
It starts and stops with us, the alleged grown-ups of this world. It is found in the attitudes we portray towards other students as well as our own children. It can be heard in our voice when we remind our children not to speak unkind words to each other. When we teach the next generation to look out for every human being, for every wounded heart and to nourish every living soul, we set the stage for all of our young people to have a soft place to land.
Our kids should never hear our negative opinion of another student. They should never hear us value looks, athletic ability or even intelligence. Our words should point out kindness, integrity and hard work. It starts with us valuing those things. It starts with us understanding that we have value just by the fact we have been created. We will then have room for growth and the potential to change the lives of those around us.
When you are shopping for pencils, new shoes and preparing for another school year (it doesn’t matter if this is your child’s first or last), prepare them in one more way. Prepare them to be a hero in the eyes of another student every day – a person who notices the value of another person. It starts with us, and it’s time we take notice too.