Monday, April 18, 2011

TEASING VS BULLYING


I did a recent middle school visit at a school and found that a child committed suicide in the school. Sadness. My heart broke for the school and the child. During my visit on the STOP THE VIOLENCE panel the kids asked all kinds of questions, but most of them focused around bullying.

This one question stuck firmly in my mind and made me remember something my grandmother used to tell me.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY, DON'T SAY NOTHING AT ALL!

I used to hate when she reminded me of that considering I was a snarky teen who thought she knew it all. I had an opinion on everything and didn’t have a problem telling it the way I saw it – especially because people didn’t have a problem reminding me that I was “short”, a “four eyes”, a “square”, a “bastard”, had a uni-brow and much more.


TEASING CAN LEAD TO BULLYING

Although it may seem innocent, teasing can stir the beginnings of bullying. I’ll take my own childhood example.

I was constantly teased for having a uni-brow and being fat. I mean, I was teased about this by my family, by friends, by teachers, heck even people I didn’t know.

My response usually was to just laugh it off. So those perpetrators thought that their teasing didn’t mean anything to me and that I Was In On Their Joke….but deep down inside, with all those people saying the same thing over and over to me – well, I started to think that what they said was true.

HOW TEASING TURNS TO BULLYING

So, since so many people were ‘teasing’ me about my uni-brow and my weight, I started to hate those things about myself, because…THEY DIDN’T CHOSE TO SAY SOMETHING NICE – WHAT THEY SAID WAS MEAN, and even now as a writer – I have to fight the negativity and let only the positivity in. But at that time, I was a kid, and all any kid wants to do is – be accepted.

I figured I could change those things about myself, and the first thing I did was shave my eyebrows. Let me tell you – that didn’t go over too well. Everyone noticed and I got teased worst for it. I let them grow back.

My weight, well, I wasn’t fat, but I was chuncky and at 14yrs old when I wanted a boyfriend like my friends had, I thought I could set off to drop some weight. Then the ‘teasing’ changed and people started giving me compliments, only thing was, I was losing weight to the point of near starvation, fainting, and anorexia. Thankfully I had a very aware grandmother, who stepped in, talked to me, explained to me how beautiful I was inside, that I had to eat and she made sure I did. She told me NO ONE WILL LOVE YOU IF YOU DON’T LOVE YOURSELF FIRST.

Wow – and she told me to LOOK IN THE MIRROR to REMIND MYSELF I AM LOVED. You know what, she did it with me that first day, and even more so after that, until one day – I started to do it for myself.

SO SHARE WITH ME HOW YOU HAVE OVERCOME BULLYING. How you don’t let negativity from nasty words affect you.

10 comments:

Valerie said...

Bullying is horrible, yes. But I don't agree with the "If you can't say anything nice" rule. Even constructive criticism can be taken as cruel if the person simply doesn't want to hear it. In fact, when I pointed out the truth to someone the other day I ended up being raked through the coals (and I mean these people were calling me every name in the book) by a bunch of strangers because I wasn't being as pointlessly nice as they were in their group think.

I think that the key to dealing with a bully is to have thick skin...develop your thick skin. And to learn how to fight back. Verbally, yes, but also physically if you must. Bullies do not like it when you stand up for yourself. I know this from experience as nothing else has worked. Yeah, yeah...violence is wrong, but so is being a victim. I see nothing wrong with self-defense.

Catherine Stine said...

It's so easy to bully now, through the Internet, which is actually very cowardly!
I was very tall as a kid, and my mother used to build up my confidence by telling me that tall people are strong and admired--and that I could marry a basketball player!!! (which I did not)

Sarah said...

I just kept telling myself I was smarter than they were, and that my life wouldn't peak in high school. It's a hard question, though. Sometimes, often times, external support and protection is necessary for a kid to get through it without being devoured. Research shows that only a complete cultural rejection of bullying actually reduces it.

Kelly Hashway said...

I used to get picked on for being short and for being too thin. Even in high school when we were learning SAT vocab when we got to the word gaunt (thin and bony) my english class said, "Kelly". And they used me as a way to remember the word. I laughed it off, but it bothered me. The hard thing for me is that as a writer, words mean something to me. Even if someone is just angry and saying something they don't really mean, I take it to heart. I know I need to work on that.

Jo Ramsey said...

Thanks for posting this. Bullying is such a huge issue, and there are far too many people who still think "it's just part of growing up" or "kids will be kids". I was bullied in school, and when I do school visits now I tell the students that even though I'm 22 years out of high school, I still remember how the bullying hurt, and there are people I went to high school with whom I still won't speak to because of what they said and did to me. It leaves a mark.

Tabitha said...

Some really great comments here.

I was bullied, too, and I was too much of a mouse to stand up for myself, or even shrug it off. That just made it worse, of course. I was too tall and too thin, a late bloomer, shy, quiet, etc. Everything about me practically screamed 'easy target.' The bullying always started out as teasing, and once they figured out I wasn't going to stand up for myself, it quickly turned into bullying. There were moments when I was cowering in a corner with angry, laughing boys above me.

It didn't help that I had a family member who was verbally viscious, but not in an obvious way--in a manipulative and conniving way. The kind where you feel like crap and you don't even know why. That's bullying, too, at its finest.

I have since learned how to stand up for myself, physically, mentally, and verbally. And, I've also stood up to that family member. There is no more bullying going on anymore, and I protect my kids from it as well (I've made it clear to the bully that those lines will not be crossed anymore). And, I teach my kids that it's not okay to say certain things to people. That it's *never* okay to make someone feel badly.

I'm lucky that I found the strength to stand up for myself. To believe in myself. Not everyone does.

cleemckenzie said...

Glad you posted about bullying, LM. It needs to be addressed all the time.

Patty Blount said...

Reading this post and all the comments makes me proud of all of you and I don't even know you.

You're all very brave.

Pk Hrezo said...

I was never bullied too much. Maybe a couple of minor times for stupid things. But I was very lucky. I had a dad that taught me very early on that I don't have to take crap from anyone. He toughened me up, so to speak. And I know not everyone has that. But I firmly believe kids have to learn to stand up for themselves. I don't mean fighting physically, I mean growing confidence and self-esteem that just emanates all around them. Even so much as a confident eye contact with the bully can let the bully know you're not a victim. Bullying will never go away and has existed from the dawn of time. Kids need to learn how to deal with it. And you are so so right when you say it starts on the inside and loving yourself. We have to empower our kids to know they don't have to take it, not from bullys, or pedophiles, etc. We have to teach them how to love and respect themselves.

Great post, LM! I bet you were just adorable as a kid.

Rik Davnall said...

Amen, LM. I suffered a lot of verbal 'teasing' which became bullying as a kid - your diagnosis is spot on. I think as children, we're all quite impressionable; if we get the same message often enough, it sticks regardless of whether our parents tell us otherwise.

The grown-ups' aphorism I used to really hate hearing was 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me', which is utterly preposterous. Childhood can be one long lesson in how much words can hurt - though I suppose it at least teaches those of us who've turned into writers that words are powerful.

I think it's a little bit trite, though, to say (as some commenters have) that the answer to bullying is to be confident - the answer to bullying is for teachers and parents to take it seriously as an issue, so that kids grow up knowing that some people do care and some people are kind-hearted. Leaving kids to deal with bullying by themselves is a sure-fire recipe for introverted, antisocial kids (like me, until I got knocked out of my comfort zone when I left home to go to university).

Great post - important issues!