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Parents Will Be Shaken to the Core

Posted on March 24, 2012


Last weekend I spoke at a Defeat the Label "Stop Bullying" rallying before a screening of The Bully Documentary in Birmingham, MI.  I then watched The Bully documentary.  Even though I have been working with children almost everyday for the last 13 years on this issue I was crushed by watching the impact of bullying on children and their families.  Families whose lives have been changed forever by the pain of losing their child to suicide because of children who were being abusive and cruel.   I cried almost the entire movie and left feeling physically sick. 


This is a MUST SEE for all parents and educators.  I can only hope this documentary is the tipping point of the wake up call to parents and educators to really understand how bad things have gotten for many of our children.  This week alone I know two of our clients that have had to leave their schools due to relational aggression - one in a public elementary school and one in a private parochial school.  I met with a middle school girl who is being sexually harassed and whose parents were told that the school could not guarantee her safety so either she could move out of district or deal with it.  I met with the administration on behalf of another middle school girl who felt scared to go into the bathroom at school because she was physically being threatened and bullied and this had gone on all year. 


Every parent should evaluate how they are teaching their children to be kind and inclusive.  Are you teaching or putting your children in programs to learn the skills to stand up for themselves and others.  Are you teaching your children skills to handle conflict and problem solving.  Are you giving your children opportunities to develop empathy and acceptance of others.


Don't be the parent that says "not my child."  The research CNN did at the beginning of the school year showed otherwise... that kids in the middle are being mean to each other (not only the "true" bully and victim).  We see it everywhere in the programs we do.  We are in every kind of school from private to public, parochial schools, to schools where affluent children go to school and schools where children are receiving free and reduced lunch.  When children are asked to be honest-- how many of you typically respond to meanness by being mean back- the MAJORITY of hands go up.  When children are asked, "How many of you make fun of and call your brothers and sisters names?"-- the MAJORITY of hands go up.   It isn't that most of our children are targeting other children or are bullies but it has become normalized to call each other names, to say you can't play, to say "I won't be your friend if..."


Often parents get angry about bullies.....but our culture has allowed them to thrive by the silence of adults and our children being told to children ignore and walk away and to act like they don't care that they are treating you badly.  This problem is a reflection of our failure to deal with meanness and bullying.  It has been swept under the rug instead of giving the children the skills and tools to handle the situations they can handle, the process for children and adults to report it,  the support system in place that includes help for the target and bully and consequences for the bully if necessary.


We are so focused on test scores that reflect if the educational system is successful or not. I think we need to realize we have all failed when a child has to resort to suicide, cutting, or missing school because of peer abuse-this test score reflects our children's emotional well being. Emotional well being is more important than any test score.


Shame on us.

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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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