In Red, White, and . . . Bloopers! Spike’s life is made miserable by a bully–his sister’s boyfriend, Todd. Spike tries to tell his parents what is going on, but they think Spike is over-reacting. They point out that Todd has two older brothers and he is used to horsing around with them. Spike only has sisters. He isn’t accustomed to Todd’s rough-and-tumble ways. As he gets away with pushing Spike around, Todd becomes bolder, until he feels entitled to force Spike to clean up his messy kitchen. Eventually, Spike and Todd are able to work through their problems and by the end of the book they are actually friends. Todd admits what he has been doing and Spike’s parents acknowledge that their lack of action caused Spike undue anguish and feelings of helplessness.
Bullying is identified as a serious problem in our world today. School children, teenagers, and even adults find themselves the victims of bullies. Bullies hold power over their victims, causing them to try to protect themselves any way they can. This protection could be in the form of avoidance, but in extreme cases, it could lead to someone taking his own life. Bullying in any form should be taken seriously. The signs of physical bullying are more obvious–bruises or other injuries that are frequent, or not the result of normal play. The effects of emotional bullying are less obvious. Someone who is being repeatedly humiliated feels the pain as much as someone who is hit.
Parents and teachers should be the first line of defense in protecting children from bullies. Educating themselves to recognize the signs of bullying is the first step. Having an open relationship where a child feels comfortable talking to parents about their problems is vital.
In a HuffingtonPost article, posted October 17, 2013, and updated January 23, 2014, Franklin Schargel, a former teacher, school counselor and administrator, offered these suggestions to parents if you think your child is being bullied:
1. Talk to your child about what happened. Listen to the whole story without interrupting. Be calm and validate what is being said. Remind your child that it is normal to feel upset but it is never all right to be bullied. Ask your child what he/she would like to happen, before you make any suggestions.
2. Don’t expect your child to solve things on their own.
3. Deal with each incident consistently. Never ignore or downplay complaints about bullying.
4. Keep a log of the incidents, where the bullying took place, who was involved, how frequently, if anyone witnessed it. Do not attempt to confront the person or their family yourself.
5. Contact the school. Find out if the school has an anti-bullying policy. Find out if the school is aware of the bullying and whether anything is being done to address the situation. Make an appointment to speak to a school counselor or school administrator.
6. If your child asks to stay home from school, explain that it won’t help and it may make things worse.
7. Discuss bullying at school board meetings and with other parents (i.e.PTA).
Schargel goes on to say, “Schools need to assertively confront this problem and take any instance of bullying seriously. Addressing and preventing bullying requires the participation of all major school constituencies, school leaders, teachers, parents and students. By taking organized schoolwide measures and providing individuals with the strategies to counteract bullying schools can reduce the instances of bullying and be better prepared to address it when it happens.”
Cyberbullying can be even more vicious than the typical forms of bullying because it is shared with people outside the group involved in the bullying. We must all guard against aiding the cyberbully by being careful what we share on social media. Giving our support to efforts in schools, workplaces and on social media to prevent bullying is everyone’s responsibility.
The Handy Helpers: Red, White, and . . . Bloopers! is available on amazon