This was a very timeous post for me as my children experienced their first round of bullying this Monday when they started a week long choral camp. According to Shira, the bullying started within minutes after I left. Two boys asked Ben whether he had a Gameboy or a Ninento. Ben's reply was that he had neither. He was then quizzed on whether he had any electronic games at all and when he replied in the negative, the stage was set. These boys gave him a dreadful time because he had the audacity to be different. Then they discovered he had celiac disease and couldn't eat the camp snacks, so of course the bullying went from bad to worse.
Ben was also attacked by a girl on the playground. His crime was to climb on a structure that she had decided was for girls only. To force him off the structure, she dug her nails into his leg and then pulled down on his leg. The marks were still there a day later.
The bullying was not helped by a few of the camp policies. I was at the camp bright and early the next morning, all ready, with fire and brimstone, to hurt someone. Thankfully I swallowed hard and went in with a measured approach. The camp leaders had already realized that their policies were causing problems and had changed them. They had also picked up on the bullying and took steps to nip it in the bud.
When I read the Fox article, I was glad once again that we chose to homeschool (the highlighting is mine because I am shocked that so many of our children have to deal with bullying):
Meline Kevorkian, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., researcher and public speaker on bullying, surveyed 167 educators last year and 25 percent indicated bullying occurs most in elementary schools. Research also indicates that three-quarters of 8- to 11-year-olds report they've been bullied, with more than half identifying it as a "big" problem, Kevorkian said.
"It could be you wear the wrong shoes or the wrong socks. If you didn't go to the Hannah Montana concert. Your lunch smells. You can't wear certain bows in your hair," she said. "It's not that the victims are all going to grow up and shoot kids in their high school, but it's the message that making fun of people will make you popular."
I am just horrified. These are young children (rising 2nd to 4th graders), where on earth did they learn to behave like this? I'm loathe to blame absentee parents or public school, but I have to wonder what role those two issues play in the behavior of these children. We socialize predominantly with homeschooled families and other than one family that has "mean" girls, we have not seen any bullying or bad behavior. If, a child does happen to behave badly, the mom is onto him/her immediately and correct behavior is role played. Fox says that three quarters of children have experienced bullying. Seeing as we haven't experienced it in the homeschooling community, I am wondering if it is a result of large groups of children together all day without parental input. Of course, it could just be that parents who homeschool are also the type of parents who would nip this kind of behavior in the bud and that many of the parents who send their children to school, are the types of parents who indulge in bullying themselves.
"Little kids are born to be kindhearted," Borba said. "They've got that natural empathy, but unless you nurture it, it lies dormant."
Nurturing empathy might be hard for competitive parents who scream at 6-year-olds during soccer games, or buy Coach bags for their girls, then wonder out loud who's carrying the knockoffs, said Barbara Kimmel, the mother of two boys, ages 11 and 14, in Morris County, N.J.