By LENNOX FARRELL
How can one influence a child to be ‘more open’, to ‘talk more about what’s troubling him/her?
First, and directed both to children and youth in and out of school, one of the primary reasons why children might not speak their minds and concerns to adults around them as parents, guardians, teachers, etc., is fear.
They might fear not being believed, or worse, not being taken seriously. They might fear reprisals, physical and emotional. There is much for a school-child to fear, apart from failing in their studies and exercises. In fact, they might be failing in school, often not attending, and often being difficult, even in grade school, and not wanting to go to school because of fear; fears they will conceal.
Therefore, if one as a parent or other adult with responsibility for keeping children safe, does not know about the prevalence and the life-long devastating impact of being bullied, or being a bully can have, one is being negligent, no doubt inadvertently, but nonetheless very negligent about that child’s health and future.
Bullying is any action intended to enforce on someone else, and in order to control them, a sense of insecurity through the expressing, explicitly or implicitly, of possibilities of being injured and/or ostracized. Do we as parents also bully? Or are we ourselves also bullied?
With regards to all children, the first law for successfully raising them and as students is for them to be in safe environments. At home, at school, and on all the ways in-between.
An example of how a parent can effectively address this scourge is found in the August-September 2011 edition of Parents Canada. It is a publication – possibly free, but can be subscribed for – chock-full of information on preparing children, including first graders, for school. It can be found at ParentsCanada.com and might also be available in schools, doctor’s offices, etc.
This magazine, in fact, makes reference to Dr. Chris Spence, an African Canadian educator and esteemed Director of Education with the Toronto District School Board. In it, he describes how, as a student, fear of being bullied made him “not want to (come) to school’. However, someone addressed the issue of ‘bullying’ with him, successfully. There is hope. There are solutions.
One can also find in bookstores and on the internet an abundance of information, including interactive games on “bullying”. Some include: http://www.ehow.com/info_8356587_interactive-games-teach-bullying.html. Also, “Standing Up To Bullying Games”, produced by some parent websites like “Building Strong Families” are available at http://www.strongfamilies.us/card-game.php.
Our community’s bookstores, for example, A Different Booklist on Bathurst Street, south of Bloor, carry some splendid material on how to deal with bullying.
No parent should remain helpless or uninformed on this life-changing issue. Not with the abundance of information on how to address a child being bullied, a child that bullies, and how to separate ‘bullying from teasing’.
Bullying in its impact is not only taking away someone else’s lunch money. It is even worse, and a major cause of students missing school. It is also a major reason forcing young girls into engaging in ‘undesirable activities’ … starting even in Grade school.
Two personal experiences as a teacher brought this home to me. I had a student in Grade 9 who, on several occasions in a class she had with me, immediately after lunch would want to go to the bathroom. I didn’t at first think much of it. One day, however, I noticed two things. One was that she would apparently go downstairs to another floor, and then be out of class for unusual lengths of time. Also, that she needed to go after the horn of a car was sounded in the driveway below our third floor classroom.
Other students also hinted to me that she’d been threatened with disfigurement. To cut it short, I allowed her to leave, but followed by seconds. As she was steps from the car, I told the pimp/boyfriend – the look on her face was one of utter relief – that if he ever returned, I’d call the police. I told her in his presence that I was going to meet with her parents.
The other experience occurred after lunchtime one winter. It was with a good student who arrived unusually late to do his class presentation. As I remonstrated with him, other students told me what had occurred.
He, having run afoul of the school bully, had been ordered to go to a nearby wooded area. There, after instructing friends to punch and kick the sh*t out of him, the bully then ordered him to eat a chunk of snow … yellow snow.
What can parents collectively do, thereby also protecting children without parents or parents who either do not care, or do not have the time and energy? Insist, since tagging victims begins within the first week of school, that the school immediately dedicate a day to students, parents and staff to help them better understand, through lectures, games, role playing, counselling and legal representation, that bullying is no game, and is unacceptable for the victim, and illegal for the victimizer.
Lennox Farrell taught high school for three decades in Toronto and in 1993 was honoured as Teacher of the year in Ontario.