5 Things Every Parent Must Do NOW!
We see them in the news, or on social media too often when we look at our handheld devices. Headlines read: ‘Young boy hangs himself,’ and ‘Teen dies from self-inflicted injuries.’ The headlines only tell part of the trauma. The unmistakable words, ‘After years, months or even weeks of being bullied by his or her peers…,’ pinpoints where the child’s suffering began.
Some children are more pre-occupied with bullying than playing in the sandbox or with their X-Box. They are teasing each other, saying the worst possible things. A 12-year-old child once told my son, who was the same age, “When God made you he left you too long in the oven and you got burned.” How does a child learn horrible words like that? Names today have evolved to stronger language, such as profanity and phrases like, “go kill yourself,” and “die now,” as was in the case with McKenzie Adams, a nine-year-old child from Alabama who hung herself last December after months of bullying by other nine-year-olds. Nine-year-olds! What do they know? How did they come up with so much hatred in their hearts and mouths? Where were their parents while all of this was happening?
Little Seven Bridges, a 10-year-old boy who not only had a chronic medical condition for which he was repeatedly teased was also called the N-word and “choked” on the school bus. Who are these 10-year-olds, who are their parents, and family members? What examples are we setting for them? How are we handling our own home environments? What was the bust driver doing at the time or the teachers?
“Once I’m gone, the bullying and racism will stop.” – Rochelle Pryor
It is easy to blame teachers, counselors, bus drivers, and the school administrators for not stopping the bullying at school, but what about at home? What is happening there? Are we as parents having others mostly raise our children? As part of the “village” it takes to raise children, it is not primarily my responsibility to raise yours, just as it is not yours to raise mine. The village means partnerships. We are partners with the educators at our child’s school. As parents, we MUST, pause, and retrace our steps. Sometimes, we MUST look in the mirror and see if we are exhibiting aggressive behaviors. We MUST accept our responsibilities and the roles we play when it comes to raising our kids. We MUST accept our fair share of blame and then, and only then we can seek to rectify what is going on with our children. We MUST resist the urge to play the blame game.
We recently read about the suicide-streak with the Australian teen girls, a total of five girls ages 12-15 years have died since Jan 01, 2019. People are blaming child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, poverty, and even poor governance on the suicides, but nowhere does this article mention bullying. Rochelle Pryor’s, one of the girls who took her life, last Facebook post clearly stated, “Once I’m gone, the bullying and racism will stop.”
As a pediatrician and child advocate, I will add my voice to those trying to make a difference to end bullying. Here are five things we all must do right now.
TALK to Yourself.
Start at home. Check yourself. It is the mirror through which your children look at life. How are you living it? What kind of language do you use to refer to people of other races or other convictions different from yours? Is there domestic violence or abuse in the home? Is there name calling? Do you put yourself down in front of your children? Do you argue? Should you be in counseling? Are you telling your children what they should not be doing or saying in school? Do you even know your children and who they hang out with at school or at play? If our kids are the bullies, we might need to change the way we are doing things at home.
TALK to Your Children
Ask them directly, “Are you a bully or are you a bystander?” Explain what you mean by those words. Seventy-percent of children are often bystanders. Ask them what do they do when or if they observe bullying happening? If your child is neither the victim nor the bystander, maybe they are the bully. If they are recording it, they are contributing to the bullying. Go through your child’s room and belongings, see if they have stuff that is not theirs that might belong to other people. This could be a sign that your child is actually a bully.
TALK to Their Friends
We must know who our children’s friends are and their friends’ parents. When my youngest son had some issues with bullying at school, one of his friends told his mom, who in turn told me about the bullying. Ask their friends directly if your child is a bully, if they know any bullies in the neighborhood, or if they themselves are bullies? We must be a part of the community when it comes to raising our children.
TALK to The School.
After taking care of the home front, then engage the school. We must ensure that the school sees us as a present-parent. Know your child’s teachers, counselors, coaches, dance instructors, tutors, and anyone who imparts knowledge on your child. Believe me, that will make a huge difference. The teachers will be the second set of eyes when it comes to guidance and assistance with your child. Unfortunately, we hear lots of stories of how some schools claim they had no idea any bullying was happening. Like the case of eight-year-old Gabriel, who was knocked out in the school bathroom by bullies four days before he hung himself.
TALK to A Healthcare Provider
If you do find out your child is the bully (and believe me, it happens), talk to someone right away. Get counseling. There are licensed providers waiting to help your child. We never want to believe our children are capable of such horrific acts like the ones we read about in the news, but too often, they are. We must change that mindset and do our due diligence. Most bullies were once bullied themselves and are dealing with their own stress and trauma. We don’t want to be the parent of a child who is responsible for another child’s death. Make that appointment right away and speak to someone about your child, the bully.