Dear Reader,

So as homeschoolers, we haven’t dealt much with bullying. There was once at a public jumping place when my children’s friend was taunted a but by some other (school) kids. And my own kids are well aware of bullying. It seems to come up in  a lot of kids’ stories.

But mostly I am writing this because of some ads I have seen and one article I read recently.  We don’t tend to watch commercials but while on vacation we did see some. During some kids’ shows there were a couple of ads starring the cast of some show I don’t know talking to kids about how to deal with bullying. The advice seems to be two-fold: tell an adult and step in and do something when you see bullying happening. In one commercial, a tall boy seems to be talking not so nicely to a shorter one in front of their lockers (you can’t actually hear what they are saying). A girl comes by and sees the situation and runs to tell the principal who just happens to be passing. But what I can’t help thinking is that in real life, when the principal comes to see what is happening, the big boy will probably just saying that they were having a friendly conversation and the smaller boy will agree with him out of fear of what might happen later if he doesn’t.

In the other ad, the bullying is much more subtle. Some girls are sitting at a table having lunch and when a new girl comes up to them, they turn their backs in such a way as to shut her out. The solution they show in this case in when one of the girls invites the new girl over to sit despite her friends’ displeasure. But they ad still says to tell an adult. But how can you tell on such a thing as that? It is very subjective. “Oh, they looked the other way when I came up.” That is hardly an actionable offense, is it? I do like that they showed such a nuanced scenario though, because it shows that bullying, or just plain meanness really, need not always be the stereotypical kid pushed up against a locker scene that we think of. And really, that is what this is, meanness. And while most overt bullying goes away as we grow into adults, I am not sure the meanness fades so much. These girls are actually more mature in that they have taken their bullying to a subtle level where it is even hard to say that anything has happened.

The overall impression I get from these ads is that the adults who design them just don’t understand bullying or where it comes from. The root of the problem is that we are throwing a while bunch of kids who are immature and without social skills together. There are not enough adults around to see every interaction and a Lord of the Flies situation results. They form their own societies with their own rules. And they are not healthy or functional societies. This is what we get for segregating everyone by ages. If we lived and worked in situations with mixed ages, the older (hopefully more civilized, mature) people would both set and example and step in to correct problems when they occur. But it is a lot to ask a 16-year-old to step up and speak out in a group of their peers. Some are capable of it, but a lot just don’t have the guts and self-confidence yet.

The second source I heard about bullying from recently was an article entitled “How to React when Insulted or Teased” from WikiHow. This article gives kids real strategies and in contrast to the ads it acknowledges that getting an adult involved is a last resort lest it generate even more retaliatory bullying later. It also encourages critical thought and analyzing the other person’s motives.

It is still a lot to ask of kids to be able to control their emotions and react calmly in a way that diffuses the situation. Teenagers are very social by nature. Their standing in their little societies and their ranking relative to peers is very important to them. I still think the ideal situation would be to not just dump them all together for six hours a day and hope they treat each other nicely. But since the current situation is not likely to change anytime soon, the WikiHow article is a move n the right direction in terms of what we are telling our teens to do.



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by questa7 on March 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Nebby…great thoughts. You are right. The ads do come across as quite naive. They do not take into account the genuine terror and ambiguity found in many of those situations. I just read a couple of your other posts too..it’s been a while since I’ve come over here to catch up, and I enjoy your unique approach to all things…homeschool related or otherwise. Keep up the good work!


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