Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Our first experience with bullying

Learning at Home linked to a Fox news article on

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.


Deb said...

How did the kids respond to the incident?

I've let my kids know in no uncertain terms that it absolutely is MY job to deal with any bullying behavior they come across, and that I will do it, swiftly and decisively. They saw this with a recent incident when the brother of Ella friend hit her. I think a child's feeling of security comes from seeing the parent emphatically, and calmly, take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that no one will harm them... appropriately managed, these incidents can sometimes even augment their sense of being safe.

I'm impressed that you were able to summon a sense of calm. My husband would have been climbing-the-walls livid.

Danielle said...

I was wondering how the rest of the week was going. I'm glad to hear those in authority noticed where room for improvement was necessary and have made steps to change. I hope that will be the last of it for this weeks camp.

Shez said...

My children's response was interesting. They told me all about the problems (there were 2 others that were far more egregious that were adult induced that I had to deal with). I asked the children if they would like to stop going to camp but in their eyes, that was not an option. I then explained that I was not signing them into the camp until I had spoken to the teachers and had sorted out all the issues. I told them that if I did not get satisfaction, camp was over. I told them what results I wanted and I also insisted that my children were with me while I spoke to the teachers.

The teachers were taken aback that I wanted the kids in on the consult, but my feelings are that this was about my children and they deserve to be in on the resolution.

the two serious issues involving teachers were as a result of badly thought out "policies". They had realized their mistake during the first day, had a meeting at the end of that day, and had already taken steps to deal with the issues.

The teachers had been aware that some bullying was taking place (my kids weren't the only ones being bullied apparently) and had taken steps to stop it.

After the second day of camp, I had a long chat with the kids and explained, yet again, that my job is to protect them and that they should tell me whenever anything happens to make them feel uncomfortable. I think the way I handled it, did a lot for our relationship and their security.

We ended up having a long discussion on why we don't have Gameboys in our household (I'm a huge Jane Healey fan and she convinced me that there are better uses of time for kids of this age).

I've realized that I need to talk even more than I do already to the children to make sure they understand why our family makes the choices it does, so that when they are faced with being different, they can feel confident with that difference.

We're so far from the mainstream that I doubt the evaporation from that stream even touches us. LOL.

The kids are enjoying camp, but it is taking its toll on them. They are not used to being surrounded by people all day and the kids are very, very fragile. When I see them like this, I realize yet again, that homeschooling is the best option for these two.

Henry Cate said...

My understanding is bullying is much worse in the UK.

I don't understand what people are thinking when they argue that government schools are good for socialization. No one has beaten me up at work. No one steals my lunch money. Yet people seems to think this are good experiences to purposely subject our children to, day in and day out, with little recourse. Sad.

Michele said...

I'm sorry you all had such a tough week. I hope you're having a rejuvenating weekend.

Blessed Mommy said...

We don't have gameboys or video games and matter of fact my son has very little computer time. I know as he get older, we will need to introduce the computer more, but at his age, 6yrs, why?
We have neighbors who allow their children to spend hours on the computer playing games with lots of violence. They know to send my son home. We are very careful in the movies he is allowed to see, we do not have cable.
Currently we are having problems with a neighbor child who is a year older. He is very disrepectful to adults and yells at my son alot. I have to limit my son's exposure to that, but it can be hard when my son wants to play with "the boys."
I am glad we are not the "cool" family.