In the wake of yet another young child commiting suicide as a result of “bullying,” I will say, parents MUST do a better job of raising secure, confident, well-balanced individuals. It’s a tough world out there, and bullying/teasing should NEVER cause another human being to take his/her own life.
As a young girl, I was teased. Weren’t we all? I have also been the teaser. I was teased for being super skinny and tall with big feet (that I grew into at some point). However, my mother did a wonderful job of teaching me how to feel good about myself despite the fact that I was 5’6 in the 6th grade and wore a size 8 shoe. I was taller than most of the guys and all of the girls, except one. When I would complain about these things, my mom would say that being different, and even being teased, builds character. This didn’t make me feel any better about the teasing, but in hindsight, she was right.
Some have suggested laws against bullying – that’s like making cheating illegal. It will not stop people from cheating, nor will it take away the temptation to cheat because just like temptation, teasing and rejection – that’s life. Mean people exist. You can’t do away with teasing or bullying, but you can alter the way in which it affects and influences your child.
My mother, for the most part, intentionally avoided buying clothes that were “in style” (to our detriment). It seemed like whatever everyone else was doing or wearing at the time, my mother would make us do and wear the exact opposite. I know it sounds like a dreadful existence, and we certainly were teased because of it, but my brothers and I were still relatively popular, well-rounded kids. I believe it’s because we developed a personality rather than relying on clothes or appearances to define us or determine our “coolness.” I’ve never told my mother, but I thank her for that.
I don’t think bullies are the problem. The problem is simply that some children care entirely too much about what other people think. I’m no child psychologist or therapist, but I was young once too, and I believe as a result of my upbringing, I was, and continue to be (there are some adult bullies out there too) bully-proof. Here are some things you can do to bully-proof your child.
Explain that everyone is NOT going to like or love them, but you do. Surprisingly, not everyone thinks Halle Berry is gorgeous. Some men think she’s just average. Moreover, not everyone thinks overweight = unattractive (see episode about feeders on TLC’s My Strange Addiction). Since beauty is subjective, teach your children to love the body, the face and the mind that God gave them. Someone will love that giant mole on their cheek or that dimple in their chin. CONFIDENCE is key.
Teach children to lead, not follow. How do you develop a leader? One way is to embrace and encourage your child’s differences. I was a strange young girl who loved to walk around the house making up big words, and who read in the dark by flashlight because when it was time to go to bed, I couldn’t sleep because I just had to know how ‘the book’ was going to end. I preferred playing basketball with my brothers rather than playing with dolls. But, at the end of the day, I was allowed to be me – chatty, nerdy, skinny – me.
Spiritual development. Understanding that God is ultimately in control gave me the strength to accept things I couldn’t change.
Limit television. Growing up in southern California, there were rarely days that would justify spending an entire day inside the house. But, if for some reason we were confined to our home, being parked in front of a television or playing video games for hours on end was not an option. We played board games, talked, or listened to music, but watching tv was not a popular pasttime in my house. I think this helped to develop our creativity because I wasn’t being told what to like or how to think by being constantly bombarded with advertisements telling me what and who was cool. I was left to determine that for myself.
With that being said, stop hating on me because I can eat donuts or anything else I want for that matter. I’m not depressed, or sick. I’m just naturally thin. You may be naturally heavy, but that doesn’t mean that either of us is “better” than the other. Let’s all learn to love the skin we’re in.
My deepest condolences to the familes and friends of Jamey Rodemeyer and Phoebe Prince (pictured above).