I know, one post about hiking and *poof* I am back to posting about other issues, but this is pretty important stuff for parents of pre-teens and older adolescents. I usually get to go to seminars like this as part of my job but when I was informed that this presentation was being given at my son's school, I jumped at the chance to attend as the "mom". We've dealt with a bit of bullying, enough to know that it definitely affects all types of kids and that it can be very damaging. Bullying is all about power and control and has very little to do with the individual target of the bullying. The 3 most important things I took away from the powerful, moving story that I heard today is that 1) you don't ask your child to make concessions for the fact that the bully probably comes from a family less fortunate than his own 2) conflict resolution at school only gives the bully more power and control over the victim and does little to stop the bullying and 3) as a parent it is ok and probably best to address the bully and his parents yourself, directly. Just as important is the new tactic for preventing bullying. Teaching the "bystanders" to have the social skills to stand up for their friends. The expert Dad told us today that it is the peers who have the power to turn the bullying environment completely around.
So, just as I am coming off of this awesome presentation which hi lighted the fact that today's children are so wrapped up in AOL Instant Messaging and that cyber bullying is a huge problem, I find out that a mother called my house this afternoon to ask if my son had just been talking to her daughter on the computer. Seriously, these kids just sat through an hour and half seminar listening to this poor father tell the excruciatingly painful story of his son committing suicide after being severely bullied both in school and on the computer and the next thing I know a boy at school is impersonating my son on AOL. NOT 4 HOURS AFTER THE MAN SPOKE AT HIS SCHOOL. Luckily my son was not on the computer. I had a 45 minute conversation with the other mom when I called her back this evening and to my delight, heard some pretty awesome things about how they knew it was not really my son by the way this boy was talking to her daughter. She said her daughter told her "mom, that can't be Greg because he would never say those things". Apparently this girl thinks my son is cool and nice and best of all he actually has manners. When he talked to the mom on the phone earlier, he actually called her Ma'am. I hung up from my conversation with this other concerned parent feeling relieved that such a positive discussion had taken place and hopefully these kids will get the picture that there are parents out there that are going to be all over them at so much as a hint of inappropriateness. As I type this...the AIM keeps popping up. Girls are telling my son to "you better-big expletive- go out with such and such girl". I quickly type a "you should watch your mouth and consider yourself blocked by Greg's mom" response. You really can sense embarrassment on the other end of this machine as they try to apologize and claim they were joking. For all of you reading this that have little kids, 2 year olds are not terrible and even a 4 year old crying about puke on her favorite pocketbook doesn't hold a candle to the headaches that are just around the corner. Consider yourselves warned. The earlier you get a handle on this stuff the better. Take time to click on the links someday I'm willing to bet you'll be glad you did.