Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bigotry and Bullying

A couple of months ago, I blogged about the negative comments my kids were hearing regarding our choice to homeschool.  In addition to the homeschool comments, my kids have been told by other kids in our neighborhood that they "don't matter," they are "idiots" "fa**ots""gay."  They have a stupid family.   They've been introduced to the "n" word for the first time ever and have gotten an earful of other colorful expletives.  We can deal with so-called "bad" words, but the name-calling and cruel terms are the ones that get to me.

The kids had an interesting way they learned about the "n" word.  They were playing with two of their friends who are Black.  An older Black boy casually called another Black boy this name.  My girls wouldn't have even noticed, but their girl friends gasped and covered their mouths.  My girls asked them what that meant and the girls said, "You need to ask your mom, but it's worse than the "F" word! Our moms would KILL us if we ever said it!"  I appreciated their friends guiding the girls to talk to me.

As far as drama, it's been crazy since living here.  For weeks, the kids came home in tears over hurtful things being said to them.  As I talked with them about what "went down," I learned that my kids were throwing ugly comments right back!  Not the direction I want them to go.  They've gotten better about rude comebacks, but it's still a struggle.  I want them to stand up to bullying, but stop before they become hateful and ugly themselves.

At this point, I'm not sure what to do about it.  Earlier this week, I did go talk to one child's family.  She has called my kids every name in the book, flipped them off, and has been generally cruel.  I had already had words with the child and ever since, her harassment of my kids only increased.  So the other day, when TJ ran in, extremely hurt after being called a fa**ot for the umpteenth time, I went straight to the adults.  Not sure how much good that will do since my kids saw the girl slapped by her own mother out in front of everyone (this, before I talked to them).  I am heartbroken that some of the kids are mistreated by their family, but also can't let that be an excuse to let them bully and harass my (or any other) kids.

My struggle is that I want to show kindness, forgiveness and love to these kids.  I also want to yell at them and never allow them near my kids. When the kids come home hurt after being treated cruelly, my "momma bear" mode kicks in and I want to (and have a couple of times) run out and give the kids a piece of my mind.

We had one "troublemaker" girl in our old 'hood.  In the four years we lived there, we may have had 2 or 3 run-ins with her.  On occasion, we had kids with hurt feelings, but I was in regular contact with the moms, so we would talk about things and once, even sat the girls down to talk with each other.  This neighborhood is completely different.  I don't see the majority of parents.  Ever.  So I feel stuck.

Let me add that the kids DO have several very sweet friends.  TJ has a couple of boys that are great.  I've met the parents and/or grandparents and they play together nicely.  The girls also have a few friends that are good kids.  However, because we have shared common spaces such as the ball courts, I can't keep my kids away from the bullies unless I keep them inside at all times and I refuse to do that.

I do know of two kids whose families were forced to move out due to the kids' bullying.  But in both cases, they were physical bullies, hitting the kids they were picking on or destroying property.  I'm not sure what can be done about the bullying.  Maybe our community could have someone come in to talk to all the kids.  That is, if the parents would allow the kids to attend.

Ironically, today, we were reading from Little Britches, Set in a ranching community in 1906, Ralph is being bullied and beat up at school.  He doesn't fight back because his mom told him not to.  But after days and days of being bullied and teased, the bully pulls Ralph's pants off.  This is what happens:
"I didn't care whether Mother would be ashamed of me or not.  I couldn't be a gentleman with my pants off, and I didn't want to be one anyway.  I plowed into Freddie with both fists...
(the fight is described in detail, then I adore what the teacher does)
"...I glanced up toward the schoolhouse.  Miss Wheeler was peeking out the corner of the window, but she didn't ring the bell till it was all over and Grace had pinned my pants back on."
Later, Ralph's dad asked, "Did you lick him?"
"Yes, sir."
"Good."  That was all.  He never mentioned it again.

Lest you think this book would encourage my kids to physically fight, don't.  In the very next chapter, Ralph lies, telling his mom that his dad gave him permission to take the unbroken horse down to the gulch to pull out some of the railroad ties.  When he has trouble getting the tie, he goes home and confesses his lie to his mom.  His dad disciplines him by making him wear a certain suit (one he hates and one that spurred on the teasing he endured in the first place) to school every day until he gets all 18 crossties out of the gulch.  (It takes him two weeks.)  And he's not allowed to go with his father on any errands, something Ralph cherishes.  Ralph's dad says,
"Son, there is no question but what the thing you have done today deserves severe punishment.  You might have killed yourself or the horse, but much worse than that, you have injured your own character.  A man's character is like his house.  If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin.  If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn't do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin.  A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth."

Bullying is nothing new, but it's morphed.  Kids have morphed.  Parents have morphed.
 
Nothing is resolved here, so I guess this is mostly a "venting" blog.  I'd love advice.  How do you handle bullying?  How do you keep your kids from bullying back?

4 comments:

  1. all I know is I love you and your kids dearly !!! They are always welcome here and I'm happy to come get them anytime---If Maddie had her way it would be twice a week !! I have not had much expierence but am grateful to learn from others. I think your doing a wonderful job Sarah--definetely better than I would... that's for sure !!

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  2. Wow - that is tough stuff. Our neighborhood sounds a lot like your former neighborhood, so we are lucky. Obviously, Ellie and Samuel are too young to have dealt with any of this. Our oldest is 7, and so far he seems to be navigating the world of children without much trouble with bullying. Having been a teacher in my former life, I think having friends and being confident are helpful in avoiding getting bullied. There are some good role-playing techniques out there for teaching kids come-back strategies - using humor, for example, to respond to teasing. What's so hard - but absolutely crucial - is to avoid letting the bully upset you. I think it's a common misconception that children bully b/c they lack self-esteem. Maybe it's true for some bullies, but I would bet that most of them lack EMPATHY, not self-esteem. The rise they get out of the bullied child is their pay-off. The trick is to avoid rewarding their behavior - and, of course, the adults have to intervene when things get really ugly. It's a judgement call.

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  3. First of all let me say.....I LOVE the LITTLE BRITCHES BOOKS!!! I was raised on Ralph Moody:)
    On the bullying, I agree with what you said about standing up for yourself, but not stooping to their level, or resorting to their tactics. What if once or twice a week you invited all these kids to your house for cookies, or something....got to know them personally, kind of mentored some of them? Maybe they don't have parents or adults that ever spend much time with them. Maybe you can sneak a little Jesus into their hearts and minds some how. Of course all this sounds wonderful in theory, and is much harder to carry out:) You're doing a great job! I love hearing about how your boys are doing! We are waiting on LOA for our little girls from China. One is deaf, one has a heart condition. they are both 4.5yrs old. So I just eat up all your information:) May God give you grace to handle this to his glory!

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  4. Hi there, I'm glad you asked the question of bullying. It is unfortunately becoming more and more common. Here is a link of a youtube video from a guy who grew up being bullied himself on the tv program called 100 Huntley Street.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXZMyuJETSc&feature=related

    Hope this helps!

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