This post is not what you think.

A newly released book, Twigs and the Bully, by Dennis Charlton (author) and Steve Fine (Illustrator), tackles the subject of bullying.  This is a good thing; bullying is a violent crime, whether physically or emotionally, and should be addressed.  That however, is not the topic of this post.  That is a disclaimer that this writer is NOT saying we should not promote anti-bullying.  I am also not putting down the book; I am promoting it while discussing possible issues that may happen as the discussion is opened up.  I hope you will look it up and buy it.  It is merely a spark to my muse.

Questions

One thing different about this book is that it lists several questions at the back to help talk about bullying with the child and possibly find out if the child is or has been being bullied.  Great, right?  Yes and no.

Backlash

While we need this, it is still dangerous in some ways.  When society became more aware of sexual abuse and began to make the public aware, there was a backlash.  The backlash was that people who did not know how to question children were leading them to make false accusations, destroying lives in the process.

Collateral damage – right?

We have to expect that there will be false accusations at times, whether on purpose or through bungled handling of children, but we should have learned something about the nature of dealing with children in crisis.  We can cut the collateral damage by remembering that children can be led.  It’s important to ask questions that aren’t leading when questioning them about subjects where false accusations could be made.

Children’s definitions.

Another issue is that children and others may begin to see bullies under every bush, even when there are none.  Up till a certain age, children often  have different definitions for things than adults do because they don’t have the words to differentiate between word meanings, and they tend to put negative emotions on anything that they do not like or that challenges their own view of how life should go.

Huh?  Example please.

One of the children in my life had Child Protective Services called on her family a few times.  Why?  She told someone a person was being ‘mean’ to her.  CPS dismissed the problem after investigating and finding out it wasn’t strictly true, however, a lot of damage was done.  One day we were in the car and I called her out for something she said.  Her response:  “Why is everyone so mean to me?”  As soon as I could, I sat down with her and we talked about what mean is and what it is not.

The definition of mean:  http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mean

‘Mean’ can ‘mean’ many things.  In this case, however, we’ll go with this one from dictionary.com:  “to have the intention of behaving or acting (esp in the phrases mean well or mean ill)”

When a parent disciplines a child (in the absence of abuse of course), that is not mean, even though it feels mean to the child because it hurts.  It is actually a sign of love to discipline one’s children, but children may struggle with this concept.  Even adults struggle with this concept at times.

The point.

Children may see bullying where no bullying was intended.  It is important to be aware of this when reading about or talking about bullying with a child.  So, as a society, and especially as parents or people who work with children, we need to not jump the gun when it comes to this topic.  Make sure you fully understand what happened before acting.  Then, if it is bullying, do something about it.

The next step.

Other than making bullying stop, a parent, teacher, etc., needs to work with the child in dealing with the effects of being bullied (or bullying).  Bad things happen.  Teaching a child to see it as the other kid’s problem so as not to internalize it is one of the major things that will help a child recover from bullying and other hard knocks in life.  Talk to your child about bullying by all means.  Buy the book and make your child aware, but don’t stop there.  Proceed cautiously and teach your child how to handle life’s hard knocks, you’ll help him or her grow as a person and guarantee a stronger child who can handle life, no matter what happens.

*The book asks if the child has ever been bullied, how they felt about it, who the told, who they should tell.  Good questions.

What would you do if a child told you someone was being mean to them?  

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