We Can’t Banish Bullying, but We Can Take a Stand

Stories about schoolyard bullying are rampant, but you haven’t heard this one … because it’s mine.

Picture day’s end at a middle school. My nephew had barely started his walk home when another student – one who relentlessly targeted him day after day – grabbed him around the neck and threw him on the ground.

Their classmates saw the incident … but did nothing.

Parents – waiting in a long line of cars to pick up their children – did nothing. No one asked my nephew if he was OK. No one reprimanded the bully. No one reported the incident to a school employee. How do I feel about their inaction? Repulsed.

I hate to sound sanctimonious, but I’m fired up about this topic.

I’m especially disappointed in the parents. Maybe they sympathized with my nephew, but assumed someone else would step in. Or maybe – because it wasn’t their child – they simply didn’t care. Heartbreaking.

Self-esteem and safety are at risk. Fortunately, we are a loving family, which helps provide a barrier (though not impenetrable) against hurtful behavior. But what about kids who are neglected or bullied at home? Who looks out for them?

Here’s the thing: Bullies come from various backgrounds. They may be victims themselves, so they lash out. Others have outstanding families. And some are enabled by parents who adopt a “kids will be kids” or “my child would never do that” mentality.

Talk to your own children about bullying. Don’t have kids? Talk to young relatives. Don’t assume that they aren’t experiencing it (as instigator or victim). Build their self-worth and emphasize that you’re in their corner. And if you see someone being mistreated, speak up.

Ask yourself this question: What would you have done if you were sitting in the car at my nephew’s middle school that day?