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WRITE TEAM: How not to raise a bully

Helen Laxner
Helen Laxner

In recent years, news segments and articles have shown us the destructive effects bullying has on those bullied and their families. 
 
Parents, desperate for change, share their heart wrenching stories of seeing the agony in their children’s faces day after day, or being horrified at the discovery of cuts and bruises on their children’s bodies’, or feeling helpless while listening on the opposite end of a locked door to their children sobbing uncontrollably. These parents plead for somebody to do something to make it stop.

Devastatingly, some children find their own ways. Many of them use alcohol or drugs to blur their pain. When this doesn’t work, they try harder — by using more and more and more. They try because they want to feel better. They try because they want to forget what was said or done to them. They try because they feel ashamed of who they were perceived to be and who they’ve become. Some of them try so hard it kills them. Some don’t try at all. They end their lives more quickly yet no less permanently.

Their parents won’t be waking them up in the morning to send them off to school. Instead they’re the ones sobbing uncontrollably on the edge of their child’s bed. They’re the ones missing from what would have been their child’s graduation. They’re the ones who go from living life to trying to survive it day after day.

In what ways can we work to eliminate bullying? It takes a village to raise a child. The more people onboard to positively influence them, the greater impact we can make. Let’s start by acknowledging the differences between bullying today as opposed to bullying before cellphones and internet access. A friend of mine said to me once, “I was bullied when I was a kid and I’m fine. I got over it. These kids need to learn to toughen up.”

Well, I grew up in the same era as him and I was bullied, too — for a day here or a week there. Back then kids spent their free time outdoors. While some bullied kids suffered tremendously, most were able to find someone else to hang out with — somebody who had no idea what other people were saying or somebody who was too busy playing ball or jumping garages to waste time belittling people.

Back when we were bullied, we went home and the bullying stopped. We didn’t get mean text messages on our phones or feel compelled to see what people were saying about us on the internet. We didn’t have those things. Most of us had a chance to come up for air whenever we felt like we were drowning. Kids today have no escape. None. After one bully posts a disparaging message about them, other bullies chime in. Often, strangers post negative opinions.

It’s not enough to tell kids not to be bullies. For kids to become more considerate, we have to show them through our everyday actions. Help neighbors carry groceries. Invite a bullied peer to lunch. Refrain from judging people, judge actions. For example, bullies aren’t bad people; bullies are people who act badly. Stand up for people without putting others down. When someone posts or says something mean, type or say “That’s a mean thing to say.” Initiate opportunities for children to get to know people often stereotyped. Be the somebody who does something.
  • HELEN LAXNER lives in Granville. Her columns delve into issues affecting Americans and provoke thought to find solutions. She can be reached via stephanies@mywebtimes.com.

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