Children bully their school bus monitor, a grandmother! As a grandmother and great-grandmother, I found this story of bullying someone around my age, unfathomable! She was brought to tears! What is going on? Really?
The Facts of the Bullied Grandma
- It happened one day in the middle of June, 2012. Sixty-eight year old Karen Klein, a grandmother and bus monitor for Athena Middle School in Greece, New York, was taunted and bullied by four 7th grade students.
- They poked, made cruel comments and threatened Klein. Many consider the most wounding words, “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.” 10 years ago, Klein’s son killed himself.
- A cell phone video of the incident was posted on YouTube.
- A Canadian dietician decided to raise $5,000 to send Klein go on a holiday. The sum has multiplied to the point of a retirement fund.
- One of the boy’s fathers made a public apology. This riled those who believed the boys, themselves, should have expressed remorse.
- The young boys and their families have been ridiculed and have even received death threats. To many people believe bullying the bully is the solution!
How Do We Influence Children to Become Bullies?
- Teaching our children that some of us are more deserving than others. Giving them the message that they are people of privilege.
- Taking responsibility for our children’s errors.
- Doing all we can to ease the lives of our children, wanting them to never experience discomfort, pain or a tear.
- Bullying anyone, including bullies. An eye for an eye leaves us all blind to civilized responses and answers.
What can we do to make a positive difference?
- Hold accountable both children and adults who commit injustice.
- Stop indulging and giving excuses for our children’s behaviors. We can revisit Dr. Stephen Glen’s book, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World. We can also look at the research of Jean Illsley Clark. In her book, How Much Is Enough?: Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children–from Toddlers to Teens–in an Age of Overindulgence, she wrote, “We are abusing our children in new ways. We are diminishing their resilience, their ability to deal with small or large challenges by overindulging them.”
- Model respectfulness, kindness and support while avoiding aggressive or rescuing behavior. If you yell, stomp, name-call, spank, hit or act-out with inappropriate aggressiveness, stop! If you excuse these behaviors, stop! STOP modeling bullying, rescuing or playing victim in your relationships.
- Teach children from a young age to empathize. Empathy means the ability to imagine how another thinks and feels. The Roots of Empathy program was started in 1996. It helps develop social and emotional skills in children. The program arranges for neighborhood parents to bring their babies into the classroom. Picture this. A facilitator helps the children interact with the baby and love it. fall in love with the baby. Students learn to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. “Would you ever want to hurt this baby?” Of course, not! Research indicates that the program minimizes aggression and increases kindness and helping.
- Build on a culture of mutual respect and virtues. The Virtues Project provides a framework which helps develop virtues and values such as kindness, honesty and respect.
- Use many of the researched Positive Psychology practices. Daily express gratitude, offer support to others, and describe what went well in the last 24 hours. When we accept responsibility for creating our own joy, we minimize the need to put other people down.
- Reach out and help. Karen Klein’s life has changed for the better after enduring this experience. She demonstrates resilience in her gracious acceptance of the donations that have come her way.
It is time we gave up the Blame Game. Together, let’s identify the problem, use proven solutions, and nurture empathetic kindness. That’s my take on bullying!
Finally, here’s a sweet reminder:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
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