As a parent, when you know someone who is going through this, the frustration and helplessness is overwhelming. We can’t all be Liam Neeson in Taken, setting off to fight the bullies or the bad guys with a gun and a few well-placed fists.
Parents have to be the rational ones; the voice of reason – the grown- ups. It’s tough. As a parent, the protective streak runs deep and the only thing you can think about is the wellbeing of your child. And if you want to slap that homophobic little kid who’s making your kid’s life –one of The Bullied- a misery- you can’t. You just can’t. Because that would make you no better than them.
One of the points Kirsty V makes in her post below is that this type of behaviour is sometimes taught. I use that word ‘sometimes’ cautiously. It can be learned from the world around us; it’s in the jibes of people who embrace only their own faiths, their own beliefs and have little respect for anyone else’s. Its brain washing; it’s following in the footsteps of the people these bigots are exposed to.
However, I’ve seen bigots come from families who have been open to all things, and who have the greatest respect for all others. Yet these bigots still decided their path lies in non-acceptance of other cultures, sexualities, genders, colour and beliefs. So it’s not cut and dried at all.
What’s the cost to those being targeted and bullied because they might be different?
- Lack of self-esteem –The Bullied lose their confidence and see themselves as inferior.
- Hiding who you are – something no one should ever have to do. We all have the right to be the person we want to be, unless you’re a serial killer of course. Then all bets are off.
- Depression – how can you be happy when you’re being insulted, spat on, jeered at, and told how useless, fat, ugly, gay or perverted you are?
- Eating disorders – trying to control what you can control gives you a sense of false security. Oh no. The person being bullied is not in control at all.
- Self-harming – finding release in the pain of self-harm and thinking you are taking back control of your life. Oh no again.
- THEY, the bullies, are controlling your life if you do what’s in 4 and 5. Make no mistake about that.
- DEATH. Let’s not beat about the bush. The number of people who commit suicide because they can no longer cope with being bullied or targeted for being different is this – ‘According to the Suicide Awareness Voices for Education suicides among 15-24 years olds is the third leading cause of death for youth. One of 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide every year. Over 16% of students seriously consider suicide, 13% create a plan, and 8 percent have made a serious attempt.’
- Horrifying but true. Suicide sometimes becomes the only option left. The last remaining control that person has over their life is their choice to take it away.
The piece below was written by a mum, Kirsty V, who has seen her son go through the trauma because of being bullied. J is only twelve years old.
My son is no stranger to bullying, either verbally or physically. At mainstream school when he was 8 he was taunted for being ‘different’ and now at a special needs school it is for a variety of reasons. I am used to hearing that J has been called ‘fat’ or an ‘ogre’; he is currently going through puberty and his body is changing, but a few nights ago he came home and said he had been called “gay”. My immediate response was “Well, if you like boys Mummy and daddy would still love you the same”, then I thought more about this . . . . . . . .
Prejudices aren’t something humans are born with; they are learnt. When I was growing up the Apartheid regime was still in place in South Africa and HIV/AIDS were new vocabulary. Luckily my Mum taught me about these issues and I quickly decided that every person regardless of race, sexuality, age, disability or even eye colour, should be treated with the same respect.
I would never claim to be the perfect parent and I bring my children up in the best way I can but both boys, even at 12 & 8 know that I will not tolerate prejudice of any kind. So when I hear that one of my own children has been called “gay” I honestly wonder how and why children have learnt to use this as an insult.
Our young people are growing up in an ever-changing world where acceptance is vital for every human being to be happy and achieve their potential. We should be teaching them that no matter whom they love, we will still love them; that bullying people for any differences is wrong and that the world would be a better place if bigotry and prejudice were eradicated.
How do we stand up to bullying and teach our children to do the same? How do we give them the reassurance that someone out there hears their voices and wants to help?
Parents can play a central role to preventing bullying and stopping it when it happens. Here are a few things you can do.
Above all else- Set a good example. Teach your children that discrimination, judgement and cruelty to others is not acceptable.
Play it forward and let’s try and give the new generation the compassion to make a difference and do the same with their children. Let’s have HOPE that this can happen.
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