I want to continue the conversation about bullying…. not that we should ever shut up about it. There can never be enough open and honest discussion, don’t you think?
Recently, the nation’s attention was drawn to the untimely and tragic death of another gorgeous young person and Dolly’s senseless passing raised the topic again. The media’s all over it, but still it’s not enough. We need to talk more as families and communities and then take further action. No longer passed anonymous notes, and whispers behind cupped hands the technology we’ve given kids has made bullying endemic. And it’s a mess we all need to help clean up.
The good Jo at Talking Teens has coined a hashtag and I love it. #ShutThatShitDown. She’s written about the victim blaming needing to stop and of the cop-out that’s just telling kids to ‘toughen up’…. And I reckon she’s right, but there’s more to consider.
Calling the bully a bully and addressing any behaviour of your kid that’s intended to harm or demean anyone else is your responsibility as a parent. Your kid’s not perfect and nor is mine, but 1. supervising them, 2. paying attention to what they say and do (especially online!) and 3. calling them out on shitty, hurtful behaviour is how they’ll learn better… and ummm actually… it’s your job. Too many excuses and too many softyly-softlies won’t do when the potential consequences are so serious.
But wait, there’s another angle too and that’s about increased understanding of what bullying is… and isn’t. If someone is mean to you, as a once-off incident, it’s not bullying. Shitty yes, upsetting for sure but it’s not bullying. We need to teach our kids the difference because our overuse of the term is impacting upon the capacity to deal with real instances of bullying.
Distinguishing between mean behaviours and bullying can be difficult and meanness can slide into bullying if it’s not dealt with. Reporting and asking what action will be taken is crucial when bullying occurs.
If you’re planning to approach the school (or police) to report that your teen has been the victim of bullying, you should be able to address the following
- Whether the behaviour has been ongoing and how long it has been happening for
- How your teen has responded to each instance
- Who else is aware of the behaviour
- Is there evidence (screen shots, saved messages etc)
- Is it clear the behaviours are intentional
- Is there a power imbalance between your teen and the other/s
Not taking action should never be an option, but having the ‘full story’, documentation and witnesses will assist in consequences being implemented for the bully.
But I do believe as parents we have can make a difference when it comes to bullies, the bullied and bullying and it will be a focus of Teenage Survival Coach this year to keep the conversation and support around this issue at the forefront. I’m with Jo on #ShutThatShitDown and let’s all talk about this.
It’s too damned important not to, isn’t it?