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This is Failure

Posted on March 5, 2011


A couple weeks ago, Channel 7 of Detroit came to the 25 Ways to Bullyproof your Child presentation at the Jewish Federation to get my comments on a video that had gone viral showing an overweight child slamming a smaller boy into the ground after the smaller boy had been punching him.  We learned that the smaller boy had been bullying the overweight boy for months.  See story here.


While disappointing, tt wasn't surprising that most people responded joyously that the overweight kid slammed the smaller boy into the ground.  Most people felt the smaller boy deserved it and finally he got what was coming to him.  I think most people really miss the true meaning of that video.


My response was sadness.  Sadness that the smaller boy felt he had the right to treat another person that way, sadness that the overweight boy had taken the abuse until he couldn't take it any more and felt his only choice was to use violence, and sad that the kids and adults who knew for months that this boy was being bullied stood by in silence.  


This is failure.  Failure by the adults in this world whose number one job should be to protect our children from harm that includes both emotional and physical harm.  Failure to create an environment where kids know that if they try and bully, other kids will stand up to them and report if neccessary and adults will take the action needed to make it stop whether that action is as simple as talking to the bully, or getting the bully help with their anger, social skills, situation at home, etc.... or giving consequences. 


Unfortunately I see failure EVERY WHERE in response to this issue.  Failure to act, failure to plan, failure to get training for staff, kids and parents, failure to take a stand again this problem of bullying and meanness and failure to put a comprehensive program in place to address this issue.  Because the government has not mandated it everyone tries to slide by with posters, a program here or there, and worst of all the mantra of the zero tolerance for bullying when there is no substance behind all of that.  I applaud those who are doing something....something is better then nothing....  but I seriously don't understand why everyone is not doing more.  How can we as a community be ok with knowing some of our children are being told everyday that they are ugly, stupid, fat, a loser, a slut, and the B-word and being made to feel that they don't belong and are not good enough.  How can we let kids call each other gay and fag and use their words in a derogatory way.
A lot of parents think not my kid, my kid wouldn't do that..... a lot of parents think their kids would stand up and do the right thing.  I don't think people realize that when the "nice" kids don't speak up they give the meanness machine power, they give the bully power.  I think most kids if given a school community environment in which they were supported in speaking up and they were taught how to do it then they would choose to do the right thing.  Our kids are getting tons of confusing messages because every classroom has a different policy- many kids are told by adults in their lives that they have to deal with it themselves, some kids are told to come to the teacher for everything, some kids are told to stand up to the meanness, most are told to ignore it.  


I think parents don't realize how strong the message of silence for the bystander is.  Many kids don't have the skills to know how to stand up to meanness/bullying and most of the culture sends messages not to be a tattletale or it is not your business or we are not going to do anything anyways.  I think many of these parents were surprised to watch their children not stand up to the bully on this Dateline special.  Only one girl named Lilly really had the guts to do it.  Lilly is the girl who needs to be celebrated for being willing to stick her neck out.  This world needs a lot more Lilly's.

If you missed the Dateline special, you can view it here.

Kimber Bishop-Yanke, M.I.M., is the founder of Kids Empowered and the author of this blog.

Kimber trains nationally and internationally on bully-proofing your children. Kimber develops curriculum and leads programs for kids, parents, and professionals on how to build confidence and self-esteem, develop socials skills and emotional intelligence, and dealing with unfriendly friends, mean-spirited behaviors, relational aggression, and bullying. As a volunteer Kimber organizes Kids Against Hunger packagings and is the Chair of Fundraising for Kenya Relief. She has also taken her program to Israel where she teaches her program to Palestinian and Israeli counselors and kids at a camp that brings children together for reconciliation.

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