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day 63: stop picking on me

April 5, 2011

When I was growing up, in a foreign pre-Columbine, pre-cyberspace territory,  bullying was not a widely discussed issue.  If those kids who were “picked on” (as we euphemistically called it) lashed out against others or — as in the tragic suicide of 13 year-old Jon Carmichael — themselves, I don’t remember ever hearing about it.  In my little world, there were kids who were surrounded by friends and kids who were alone, who sat hunched over their sandwiches in the corner of the lunch room.  Because I was somewhere in between, I don’t remember noticing much more.

Either incidents of bullying have gotten worse, or we are paying closer attention, or both.  Bullying is the subject of national scrutiny, and we are learning that kids’ suffering is deep and wide.  Particularly at risk for maltreatment, it seems, are kids with special needs.  According to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, special needs children are two to three times more likely to be bullied than the general student population.  In her study, fifty percent of special needs respondents reported being fearful of their peers.  Her statistics show that 85% of bystanders do nothing in response to bullying they witness.

I can think of no better reason to talk to children about treating each other with kindness than the numbers above.  No one wants their child to be a bully, of course, and we all want our kids to learn without fear.  Truly, though, I can’t stand the image of my children in the throng of 85% of bystanders who sit idly by while another suffers.

About a week ago, a friend told me his elementary-aged daughter was being bullied by another girl at school.  He wasn’t entirely sure what to do, wanting to both manage his own feelings about her experience and to provide her with an opportunity for open dialogue.

On Day 63, I found this book at a bookstore:

Written by a psychotherapist with the aim of exploring interpersonal relationships from a 4 to 8 year-old’s perspective, I hope it will be a doorway to conversation between my friend and his little girl.

I just may have to pick up a second copy to keep.

I hope you face today’s critics with the knowledge that you are always enough.  I hope, too, that today provides you an opportunity to stand up for someone else.

Thank you, always, for showing up.

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