Myth 1: Bullying Is a Normal Rite of Passage
What would you call a kick to the backside that catapults a ten-year-old boy across the classroom? Normal? What about a twelve-year-old snipping off the ponytail of her unsuspecting ex-best friend? All in good fun? Or what if a handicapped boy was being repeatedly ridiculed by a group of his classmates? Would you call it kids' play?
Unfortunately, these types of rite-of-passage behaviors are occurring day in and day out in schools across the country. And with approximately 30 percent of kids engaged in bullying or being bullied, there is a real chance your child could be among them.
And even if your child is one of the lucky ones and isn't a target of verbal aggression, physical assault, or peer rejection, your child will undoubtedly witness (as 70 percent of children do) many such events throughout his years in school. Bullying is a serious problem; one that can, and does, affect every student. Bullied kids may suffer anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and academic difficulties.
In the long term, kids who bully are at higher risk of depression and relational issues, and have higher rates of adult criminal behavior. And bystanders who witness bullying behavior feel ill equipped to intervene, and yet feel guilty for not helping.
Picture this: your child comes home from school with a black eye and a bruised lip. Would you dismiss it by saying, “Don't worry about it, kiddo. Everyone goes through it”? Probably not; you would be dialing the principal before you even grabbed an ice pack out of the freezer.
Dan Olweus, one of the world's leading experts on bullies and their victims, has said that teachers' attitudes, behaviors, and routines play a significant role in the prevalence of bullying behavior. When a teacher fails to come to the aid or assistance of a bullied child, the teacher is enabling the activity to continue and can inadvertently create a victim mentality in a child.
After decades of research, many of the common bullying myths have been debunked. Yet somehow a large percentage of the population continues to downplay and discount the seriousness of the bullying problem. Stripped of all the misconceptions — it's harmless — misrepresentations — it's just a little roughhousing — and excuses — it's hard to tell what's really happening between kids on the playground — bullying is still abuse. Just because the violence happens between children doesn't make it any less serious. In fact, it can make it more so because of a child's developing sense of self.
All of this is happening in the one place (besides your home) that your children should feel safe; in the hallowed halls of academia, where your child should be focused on growing and learning and socializing with his peers. He shouldn't be worried about when he will get the next sucker punch or wedgie ripper; he shouldn't have to worry about being attacked in the bathroom or stuffed in a locker; and he shouldn't have to worry about being taunted and teased or humiliated every day.