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Bullying: When it happens at school

Recent conversations with some of the other parents revolve around instances of bullying at our school - on the playground, in the classroom, and beyond.  The bullying seems to be recurring, and cycles of exclusion continue to hurt other children's feelings.

In the classrooms, teachers lead talks with the students to help differentiate "bullying" from poor behavior, say, from having a bad day.  Bullying of intentional intimidating is different from when a child may unintentionally hurt the feelings of another, maybe when he is insensitive as he rushes past (or pushes) a child to make his way out of the classroom.

I have an awful story of when I was a bully to a schoolmate.  My mother made me invite her to my slumber party in the fifth grade, even if I wasn't too chummy with her.  The whole evening, I ridculed her for her size (she was overweight).  Later that evening, her presence irritated me so much that I asked her to leave my party, and it was the middle of the night!  I walked her to the door, pushed her out, and locked the door with her outside.  To this day, I am remorseful for my behavior.  It was inexcusable.  I have other stories of being bullied (including being physically injured) and being the bully, but this experience was a pretty poignant memory.

Bullying is real.  Has your child encountered a bully at his or her school?  Has your child exhibited characteristics of being a bully?  Do you have books or resources to recommend to learn more about and about how to handle bullying?  If you talk about, what is part of that conversation?

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I was the bullied kid. My 11 y/old has, thus far, pretty much avoided the bully-bullet, except for a few isolated incidents. But everyone has their time, don't they? She's in middle school, and girls are scary--it's inevitable that it will happen.

We talk alot about bullying, and not bullying, and what bullying looks like. That bullying is not only physical, and that the emotional side of bullying hurts as much (or more!). I've made sure she's had non-school activites from which to draw friends and forge relationships, so that if things go bad at school, she's got other allies. Our rule is that you don't have to like everyone, but you treat everyone with a certain degree of respect and kindness.

My son is only an infant so this isn't an currant issue for us, but it is something I've thought about. I was bullied from kindergarten through about tenth grade. The most horrible years were 5th-9th grades. I was bullied by both boys and girls (boys physically, girls emotionally) - the emotional bullying was almost worse in lots of ways. My parents were unfortunately so caught up in their own collapsing lives that it basically went unnoticed (plus I don't think in the 70's and 80's teachers were quite so tuned into it - I don't remember a single time anyone ever asking me about it and it was so obvious what was going on). I guess my main goal is never to be so neglectful to my child and his feelings as to be oblivious to what his life is like. I like what Sheryl said about not having to like/be friends with everyone, but needing to treat everyone with respect. I hope to instill those values in my son.

This is an issue that I am very worried about. My daughter is in Kindergarten and bullying has not happened in the physical sense but there is already alot of talk of excluding certain kids and lots of "I won't be your friend unless you...... or if you are friends with so and so. We have had lots of talks about what makes a good friend and how good friends do not make you do something in order to be their friend. We also discuss how to treat others with respect and be aware that if something you say would hurt your feelings it is probably hurting someone elses when you say it. I am sure this is only the beginning of social issues that will have to be dealt with during her school years, it will surely get worse. I plan to make sure I stay tuned into her and be there to help her when things are difficult.

Girls Inc. of NW Oregon offers a fabulous curriculum on girls and bullying, or what they call "relational aggression." It's more geared for educators, and is a fee for service training/workshop.
http://www.girlsincnworegon.org/?q=program/alliesinaction

However, I would suggest checking it out and talking to your school administrators about offering this training to teachers and any school employees involved in children's development.

Also, if you call Girls Inc. and identify yourself as a parent they might be able to suggest particular books or other resources on the topic of bullying.

I, too, was extremely hurtful to a girl in 4th and 5th grade. I was mostly verbally mean, which is bullying.. I am not even sure why I picked on her. My only real memory of it was, she was quiet and reserved, and basically never said anything back to me. I guess for me it was a "little" power kick.
I am MORTIFIED that I ever treated anyone like that.

During a stint as a camp counselor I remember one group that stood out to me because all the girls treated each other kindly. No one in that group was being bullied, and it made that group remarkable. Parents have got to work together on social inclusion.

I was a victim of almost constant bullying in third through 6th grade. Not only were my peers involved but school administration. I still can not figure out how adults can fall into that kind of behavior. I hated school, came home crying nearly every day and did everything I could to avoid those people including deciding on what middle and high school to attend.

To do my part I will teach my 2 very young girls that everyone has feelings, and it is easier to be kind to someone than mean. I will not tolerate my children creating that kind of environment for other kids, it is far too damaging to a kids self worth.

We've just received information for an event is pertinent to the bullying. We included the event info on the urbanMamas calendar, but below is the pasted information:

Guest speaker Kim Payne coming to Portland this February for FREE lecture and workshop:

Kim will be coming from New York for this special event and has been helping children, adolescents and families explore issues such as social difficulties with siblings and classmates, attention and behavioral issues at home and school, emotional issues such as defiance, aggression, addiction and self-esteem.

Thursday February 12th from 6:30pm-9:30pm He will be speaking on the topic of THE MANY FACES OF BULLYING : From the Corridors of our Schools to the Corridors of Power
This presentation explores a third way to the punitive - permissive dilemma we often face when responding to wrong doing such as bullying. This third was is called 'accountability without blame'. The presentation traces the many 'layers of bullying from the school environment through to current event. It offers practical home and school based solutions that when implemented can be a part of lasting change in the world. For more info on this topic click here http://www.thechildtoday.com/Workshops/?plugin:dataview:Workshops:15:status=1

Friday February 13th from 9am-12pm there will be a workshop on the topic of PLANTING the SEEDS of KINDNESS Exploring Creative Alternatives to Aggressive Behavior in Early Childhood and up to Nine Years of Age
This is a facilitated discussion that will address the issue of aggressive and antisocial behavior in children. For more info on this topic click here http://www.thechildtoday.com/Workshops/?plugin:dataview:Workshops:2:status=1

Cedarwood School. 3030 SW Second Ave, Portland. 503-245-1477 http://www.cedarwoodschool.org

Childcare available Thursday Evening. There will be a small fee or requested donation. Parents should RSVP (# will be determined very shortly)

I made the first comment regarding my daughter thus far dodging the bullet, bully-wise. So much for that--last night she told me that her classmate, "R" (whose family we are actually very close with, 3 generations deep), told my girl to "get out of here, we don't want you" when she tried to join a group of girls that R was a part of.

I asked my girl how she handled it and she responded by saying that she just walked away. She further said that she waited a couple of beats before walking away to see if any of the other girls would come to her defense, but they "either looked down or looked at me with sad eyes". When they didn't react to R's words, she said she figured the other girls weren't friendship material, or they would have spoken up in her defense. "Mom", she said, "I have other friends who don't treat people that way." She said her feelings were hurt, but she didn't want to show R or her group and give them any satisfaction over it.

I'm proud of her for the way she handled things, but it makes me sad nonetheless. Ah, the joys of middle school.

TJ, I second your comments regarding the efforts of Girls, Inc. What a great organization. Unfortunately, the Girl's, Inc. group in my daughter's school meets afterschool on a swim practice day. Given the choice, my girl opted for her "true love"--the water--but is hoping that Girls, Inc. will move their meeting day next term. Ironically though, "R" is part of our school's Girls, Inc. group.

These is so timely! There is a talk coming up about this at Cedarwood School.

Guest speaker Kim Payne coming to Portland this February for FREE lecture and workshop at Cedarwood School!!

Kim will be coming from New York for this special event and has been helping children, adolescents and families explore issues such as social difficulties with siblings and classmates, attention and behavioral issues at home and school, emotional issues such as defiance, aggression, addiction and self-esteem.

Thursday February 12th from 6:30pm-8:30pm He will be speaking on the topic of THE MANY FACES OF BULLYING : From the Corridors of our Schools to the Corridors of Power
This presentation explores a third way to the punitive - permissive dilemma we often face when responding to wrong doing such as bullying. This third was is called 'accountability without blame'. The presentation traces the many 'layers of bullying from the school environment through to current event. It offers practical home and school based solutions that when implemented can be a part of lasting change in the world. For more info on this topic click here http://www.thechildtoday.com/Workshops/?plugin:dataview:Workshops:15:status=1

Where: Cedarwood School. 3030 SW Second Ave, Portland. 503-245-1477 www.cedarwoodschool.org
Details: Childcare available Thursday Evening. There will be a small fee or requested donation. Parents should RSVP to navinpca@gmail.com

Coffee, tea and snacks will be available for aprox $1 each

For More Information on Kim here is a link to his website: http://www.thechildtoday.com/

bullying intervention is big at my school. we teach a whole "bullyproofing" curriculum. it gets frustrating for the kids though--the curriculum doesn't really change the behavior of the bullies as their issues aren't so simply altered. what it does, and i guess this makes it valuable, is raises the awareness of the victim and points out that the bystanders are just as guilty. most schools should have some sort of curriculum. but as other posters have pointed out, the best curriculum for dealing with this always comes from home!

Suzanne: "bystanders are just as guilty". AMEN!

Mamas, we just received another email on the topic of bullying: "My kids are still very little, but I'm curious who real the issue is today. Especially in middle school. Does it also happen in the elementary grades? We are considering "redshirting" our preschooler, and bullying is just one of the reasons, since we figure the youngest child in the grade are subject to it more." Share more thoughts?

A high school friend of mine is working on a documentary on the subject. Check it out at

http://thebullyproject.com

It looks like a powerful look at an intense subject.

I was the youngest in my class, and although I experienced some bullying (probably all kids do) there were others who received far worse treatment. Now I am a teacher and dealing with a bullying issue right now. From my observations, it seems like the victims tend to be
1) a little bit different (the child I teach is very learning disabled, one girl from my childhood was very religious and dressed differently and didn't participate in school holidays)
and
2) unassertive

Help! My first grade son's best friend from the beginning of the school year has begun to bully him. He excludes him from groups and makes mean comments to him throughout the school day.

I talked to their teacher, recently, who reiterated the use of "cool tools" techniques for kids to deal with bullies, but I also felt like she didn't take the issue it too seriously. I get that the bully is just 7, but I want to tell him to "knock it off!" I'm also frustrated by his parents who seems to be clueless. Somehow I feel I'm supposed to deal with my son's bullying quietly "like the victim" also-- it doesn't seem socially acceptable to approach the bully's mom (the class is very small), and if I talk to the bully he will tell his parents and will make for uncomfortable drop offs in the morning, etc. What would I say to the bully or his parents? Should I care how the bully's family feels? I've stopped making play dates with the family, and have been setting up new play dates for my son, but the bullying is quiet and isn't stopping. I am so upset and would appreciate advice from anyone.

Local author Trudy Ludwig wrote a book called "My Secret Bully" about relational aggression (I am the illustrator). It's a very good one for talking about this issue with kids, as it is one of the few books on the topic that takes the form a of a picture book. It has questions for discussion at the end, as well as a list of bullying resources. Most schools and libraries have a copy. Trudy has written a number of other books on bullying, including one that takes the perspective of the bully.

Here's Trudy's site, which lists all her books: http://www.trudyludwig.com/

Thanks Abigail. I will seek out the books; I'm especially curious about the one written from the bully's perspective. I really appreciate the support!

I'm glad to hear that some PPS schools actually handle and address this, because my daughter's school, Atkinson Elementary, couldn't possibly handle things more poorly.

I was bullied as a child and my daughter has now sadly been bullied (physically and emotionally) to varying degrees since the first grade. Probably the two worst years were 3rd grade (when the primary bully was her teacher, and took great pleasure in publicly humiliating my daughter on a daily basis)---and this year (a new principal who has specifically targeted my daughter out of retaliation after i stood up to her).

My daughter is now so deeply depressed that she actually (at the ripe old age of 10) talks about suicide. I told the school this--they replied A) "kids don't bully another kid unless the victim brings it on themselves and gives them a reason and B) we'll have her work with the speech pathologist to speak more softly. Then she won't get picked on.

In of the cases in which my daughter was physically assaulted--in 2nd grade 10 little boys held her down and groped her privates, in third grade 5 older kids attacked her with a brick and this year another girl attacked her in the lunchroom, with a weapon (leaving a mark on my daughter's face), repeatedly, with no adult attempting to intervene---my daughter received no attention from the nurse and the school saw no need to inform me of any of this (each time my daughter came home and told me), though they were fully aware.

Ironically, school personnel WILL call me because my kid didn't pay attention in music that day, needs to start wearing a bra, etc. When I've confronted them with these incidents, they were always met with non-answers, non-apologies and brushed away. The school counselor's standard response is "well, we felt we did the best we could do at the time".

The worst part of this is we had hoped my daughter could leave all (or some) of this behind by getting into Da Vinci instead of her neighborhood middle school, Mt. Tabor (and its made the news reputation for failure in handling bullying). I'm now in the initial stages of my hardship transfer application. And I will NOT be backing down if it's denied.

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