There Be Bullies

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

This month, we are focussing on issues in the school system (and this means any school system: homeschooling, charters, etc are not exempt) that are prevalent, insidious and hard for us to talk about with our kids.

Bullying has been around since Cain and Abel, but if Eve had given them smart phones I think they could have avoided going out into the field altogether and Cain could have ruined his brother from the comfort of his couch.

What this means for today’s kids is a perceived power imbalance (which is what sells technology in the first place) so magnified that the result, more times than we want to look at, is death. Death of an idea, death of self-worth, death of a child. Please stop right now and call, text, message, hug, or high-five a kid. It doesn’t have to be your kid. And you don’t need a reason. Every kid needs that little ping of positivity because – people listen up – we are fighting an undercover avalanche of insidious bullying.

And you count. I’ll wait while you send it….

According to my many teacher friends, schools are educating kids about proper web use and ethics. They know it’s hard for some kids to admit to being bullied, so it’s discussed regularly in the classroom. Some teachers have an app that can check a kid’s iPad at a moments notice to see if it’s being used appropriately. They have counselors, social workers, and technology staff and partner with police and programs for nonviolence and peace. The message they are sending out is: “Bullying is not right. Everyone deserves a safe place to be in school.”

But of course, there’s a flip side: how do you distinguish between bully behavior and normal, age-appropriate immaturity, or even teasing between two children who both think it’s funny? The “bully” label is easily triggered in students and parents alike and they expect dramatic reactive steps on the part of school staff, regardless of the circumstances. (Here’s my fun story on that.)

Usually a quick, real-time intervention by the teacher, having kids apologize or just a stern talking-to, resolves many incidents. Seasoned teachers definitely know the difference and they also know their students personalities.

But the teacher is not you, the parent. (Unless of course you are homeschooling like Eve was and we are praying for you. Get yourself a favorite aunt who will take your kid for ice cream and have this conversation.)

You, the parent, should also be using real-time intervention by talking to your kids about when they were bullied and also when they bullied someone else. The answers are perhaps not so important as the process of opening the discussion. We all have to find ways to get along on the planet and this is a good place to practice the conversation. Earn their honesty by trusting them to find solutions along with you. Suggest ways they can hand out those little pings of positivity, too.

Conversation Prompts:

  1. Technology is just a tool and you control the “off” button. No one can access you via technology unless you allow them to. Others can block you, too, if you lose their trust.
  2. Bullying can be physical, emotional, or verbal. Harassment or intimidation via technology is called cyberbullying. Look up your school policy on it and read it together.
  3. Make an action plan as a family. Consider and act out scenarios where you are the target, the witness, and the bully in turn. How do you feel? What can you say? What will you do?
  4. Restorative Circles will give you the dialogue you need, and here is the other side of that with examples.
  5. Find resources on stopbullying.gov.
  6. Find more resources from the national PTA here.

“Love your enemies as yourself” Lev. 19:18

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

The Yurt

You know that moment when your mouth opens and the words start pouring out and simultaneously your brain is screaming “Shut it! Hurry!” but it’s too late because the material is just so good that you have – in that very moment – made the unconscious decision to say the startling thing and let it just parade around out there in front of you and see what happens.

It’s something you could do with your siblings and not think twice.

They are quite entertained.

It’s dicey at best with someone who barely knows you.

You’re taking the risk that they will paste on a smile and fade slowly backwards into your past as quickly as possible before you say something else…

Your listener will either do that or frown a bit and ask the logical next question:

“Um, why?”

Because they are being polite. Don’t fall for it. It’s code for, “I forgive you for opening that up. Here is your chance to put it back in the box and squish the lid on.”

Oh, Jolie. I can’t take you anywhere.

“But I do know what a yurt is, because my dad lives in one,” said the voice in my head out loud.

Oops.

“Um, why?”

“Oh, well…he built it himself and he’s really good at building stuff, as a matter of fact, it’s what he does, makes aviaries and cages and things for his business from home. Do you have a pet?”

The diversion didn’t work.

“Where?”

“At our house, actually, the one we moved to when I was a teenager. My parents still live there after all these years and really, he always was going to build a house. When I was a kid, we had a pile of giant wooden triangles in the yard because we had five acres in New Mexico and he was going to build us a dome house on them.”

She didn’t take the bait.

“But your mom…”

“Doesn’t live in a yurt, of course, she lives in the house. She gets the inside of the house and he gets the outside and they are both happy with the arrangement. The yurt has plumbing and everything. He’s quite a talented builder. He just visions something in his head and his hands can build it. Mom is no way going to live in a yurt.”

I thought for a moment.

“I guess she didn’t want to live in New Mexico, either.”

At this point, the TMI crazy train has wrecked three times and my brain is staggering around trying to stop the leakage and find a way – any way – to segue to a screeching halt that doesn’t make me look like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”.

“The house is all paid off now,” I finished, shuffling sideways, intensely interested in something on the far wall, “Maybe he’ll hang some new curtains in his window.”

I knew questions were being shouted out from the studio audience in her head.

“Who does that? Was he pining away for a camping adventure, and this was as far as he went? Is he planning to patent his yurt design and just trying out multiple ideas to perfect it? Is he a mad scientist who experiments with chain link fencing, guitars, and bantams? Did he bury treasure out there and needs to guard it? Maybe her parents are secretly working for Elvis.”

I suppose it does save on vacuuming time.

She couldn’t know that, since our house didn’t have enough bedrooms in it, Dad had built me a room in the backyard after I graduated high school. It was painted and pink and girly and the only time in my life that I’ve ever had a room to myself.

I lived in the original yurt but it looked more like a single-wide.

Without plumbing.

I thought it was heaven.

There’s a show on TV called “Tiny House Nation”, and it just proves what we all know: there’s a fine line between a crazy person and a trend-setter.

Dad was just cool ahead of the yurt curve.

 

From the Nanny Jo Diaries

Dear Diary,

Worry of the Day: Sometime in the murky future, this sweet little tater tot kidlet will discover that the only reason I hang out and party with her is because I’m getting PAID to do it.

And then she will hate me for the rest of my life.

Nobody warned me about this. Now I’m nervous. Now it’s….personal.

Perk of the Day: Kidlet thinks I’m an amazing cook. It doesn’t matter what gourmet lunch mom has prepared for her, the kid wants what I’ve packed in my own bag.

Today we had day-old cornbread muffins and made a delicious glorious mess of them.

Rant of the Day: Comatose parents!

I took the kiddo on a field trip today to a place that is designed specifically for toddlers through maybe six year olds.

It’s a “discovery” play place with both indoor and outdoor stations meant to encourage theatrics, scientific dialogue, gardening, and waterworks engineering. There were bubbles, legos, musical instruments, a climbing structure, book nooks, and a playhouse and play market, complete with little grocery carts and plastic produce.

I stood there digesting this for a minute before I said, “So, it’s basically just like home…but it comes with built-in siblings and I don’t have to clean it. Cool.”

Unlike home, my kidlet had to share this free-for-all with two busloads of kindergartners, one birthday party, and several exhausted new mothers who huddled in the picnic area, breastfeeding with one arm and slicing bananas into non-choking bits with the other.

There were only two supervisory eyes on the kid tornado that was blowing through the place, and they were both mine.

One eye stayed trained on the actual kid I had brought through the door, and the other eye helped me intercept the objects hurtling through space at her.

Kidlet is two years old now and becoming quite the little butterfly.

She went flitting between stations, considering all of the options, before settling on the slide.

Up the carpeted stairs, across the landing, and down the slide….over and over and over and over for a solid half hour.

If a little one sat on the slide ahead of her, she waited politely until it launched.

The larger ones would come along, pass her by, nudge the little ones out of the way, and help themselves.

She was very confused by it.

Eventually I lured her off and outside with the idea of bubbles.

“Bubble” is one of her first words. It’s what she called her contact lens.

There were five vats of bubble solution outside and multiple long wands for dipping and wafting through the air to create large bubble clusters.

It was fascinating for two dips.

Then another big kid came along, snatched her wand right out of her hand and walked away.

She and I looked at each other for a long minute before her face melted.

When kidlets cry, they begin with the lips, then the eyes follow, then the cheeks give way.

We decided that some kids are crazy like that and found her another bubble wand.

But inside I was steamed.

“Where are your parents?!” I mentally hollered at the kid wandering off.

As I turned back to my kidlet, another excitable kid waved his wand in the air and whacked her right on the head.

She got an instant shampoo and I was ready to wring out a few adults.

I looked around.

The adults were either scrolling through cell phones or talking to each other in corners, baby slings attached.

No one was going to claim the free-range shampooer.

Who does that??

Maybe this is the new parenting norm.

Confusion of the Day: At my house, the kids are either glued to computer screens or sitting in corners talking to each other and completely ignoring us adults who are running around “playing at real life” and occasionally bopping each other on the head.

Today’s Conclusion: If the adults and the teens are happily comatose, then society is currently being managed by bubble-wielding kindergartners. And we should be very afraid.

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