When we were in school, a bully was someone who made you regret having to come to school in the morning, somebody who went out of their way to make your life a little more difficult. Somebody who was just mean spirited for no good reason. We all experienced them, if not directly we watched as someone else endured the wrath of a bully. They were a part of the fabric of our schooling. With the bullies of our day, you either fought them or tried to ignore them until they outgrew their foolishness.
But today, a bully is something entirely different. Today, a bully can be someone who either takes a life, or causes someone to feel like they need to take their own.
I’m not assuming that children never took their lives in order to avoid a bully before; but as of late, the number of children and teenagers and even college students taking their lives because of something a bully said or did is more than alarming. It’s terrifying.
Every time I hear of another young person taking their life I spend the next few hours wracking my brain, trying to figure out what went wrong, who dropped the ball? The most recent case of a child suicide happened just last week. Ten-year-old Jasmine McClain from North Carolina, decided to hang herself after her mother thought she’d gone to sleep. The ten year old took her last breaths in her mother’s arms.
What could someone have said or done to prevent such a tragedy?
Essentially my musings always come down to a few key questions.
What was going on in the bully’s home?
I like to see the world like Anne Frank. I generally think that people are basically good…unless they’ve endured some type of unspeakable harm. More often than not, the children and young adults who are spending their days terrorizing others are often being abused in some form or another at home.
While abuse at home is certainly a concern, I fear that in many more cases today’s children are exposed to far more violence than ever before. Violence is everywhere, so prevalent that children are desensitized to it. Their brains can’t completely comprehend the gravity of treating someone poorly, abusing them verbally or physically.
Why didn’t the school take it seriously?
In these cases I wonder how often the teachers, counselors and other administrators watched or listened as children were bullied under their care. Were the claims of bullying simply brushed off as being a case of a tattle-tell? How many of these cases could have been avoided if the schools took them more seriously and bullies were either counseled or punished more severely?
Did the parents have an open line of communication with their child?
I’m in no way blaming these suicides on the parents but when one of these tragedies occurs I always wonder, why didn’t they talk to their parents? Did they know their child was being bullied? If you’re a parent and you have a child who’s being tormented at school, please don’t assume it’s the same type of stuff you went through when you were a kid. If Columbine taught us anything, we know that times and people have changed. If your child is not one to come to you without prodding, make sure you ask them and then their teachers whether or not they’re being bullied, picked on or talked about at school.
Did the child have a ride or die parent?
The sad truth is that your child can get lost in the shuffle. Just because the school isn’t doing what they’re supposed to, doesn’t mean you can slack as a parent. After all, you shouldn’t expect your child’s school to care for your child the way you would. It’s your job to go above and beyond for them.
I’ll never forget when we were in elementary school, in after school care this boy hit my sister. As an older sister I probably should have taken care of that; but once we got home and told my mother, the matter was already solved. The very next day, my mom marched up to the little boy and said, “You see those two over there. (Pointing to my sister and I.) They’re mine and you are not to touch them, or you’ll have to deal with me.” Oooo lawd, I still laugh thinking about that day. I laugh because my mother was/is crazy as all hell when it comes to her kids. That’s that ride or die parenting right there. Sure, if she pulled something like that today, she’d probably be escorted off the premises… in handcuffs; but that day, she sent a message, not only to the little boy that hit my sister but all the other kids who happened to be watching.
Your child needs to know that should anything pop off at school, you will be there to regulate. The confidence of knowing you have a parent who will make an appearance if things get too crazy is something children need to endure the challenges of their world. Life is going to be hectic enough once for them once they leave your care, make sure you protect them as long as you can.