off the cuff

Don’t hate me because I can eat donuts


     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).

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “Don’t hate me because I can eat donuts

  1. Dear TT: This is an excellent article and I hope it reaches a large number of people because parents and teenagers would benefit from its contents.

    Mark

    Posted by Mark | October 26, 2011, 8:16 AM
    • Thanks!! I think so too!! It’s so sad that there are kids who would commit suicide to avoid ridicule. I hope too that it reaches a large number of people or at least the ones who could really benefit from the information. The only way that can happen though is to share, share, share!!

      Posted by 30thoughts | October 27, 2011, 3:15 AM
  2. You’re welcome! I will definitely share it with those I know!

    Posted by Mark | October 28, 2011, 3:54 AM
  3. I agree with your points to an extent. As someone who was also bullied, I am sure that the fact the my family was engaged in molding me and did most of your suggestions kept me from being suicidal about it. Yet I was still seriously depressed and not reaching my full potential because of it. I disagree with you contention that bullies are not the problem and that basically all of the onus should be placed on the bullied. Bullying is unnecessary. Child suicides are unnecessary and preventable. I agree that we probably cannot totally eradicate bullying, but we can minimize it and we should do whatever we can to do so. We have a huge problem with people not taking this issue seriously enough even with all of the media attention the issue has been given recently. We need more attention on the bullies and the families that create them. If the families of bullies were doing everything on your list I don’t think there would be as many. Also, bullying is many things, not just teasing. I’m glad that’s the limit of your experience, but don’t let that limit your view of the subject.

    Posted by MP | November 4, 2011, 1:12 AM
    • @MP – I think there is a difference between bullying (which is usually physical) and teasing. If kids are being physically assaulted by other kids, this behavior is usually not tolerated, and is punsihable by law, so we should do away with that aspect or type of bullying.

      I think we are always trying to change other people’s behavior (which oftentimes is difficult or impossible to do), rather than focusing on changing our own behavior or how we respond to others. As you correctly stated, there is no way to do away with bullies or prevent the production of bullies because we all grow up in different environments and under different circumstances. Some parents would be shocked to know that their kids are bullies at school. My mom certainly would have, but I’ve been on both sides. But, how can we hold parents responsible for behavior they are not aware of, or that they have little control over? At what age will bullying become illegal? What type of punishment will bullies have to endure? Posing these questions to you makes the idea of punishing bullies sound even more ridiculous.

      Trust me, I have experienced the worst of it, and when I was going through it, I was depressed and sad at times, as well, but I think it just prepared me for life, in general. It put me on notice that things will not always go my way, I can’t have everything I want, and everyone will not like me. But such is life. I would rather my children learn how to deal with the uncertainties and cruelties of life early on so that they don’t crumble or break down at the first sign of hardship, rejection, or criticism as they mature and become adults. I understand where you’re coming from, but that’s like making it a crime to be unpleasant or mean. People are the way they are for whatever reason. You can’t change that. But, you can change the way you deal with those people and how what these people do or say will affect you.

      Posted by 30thoughts | November 4, 2011, 9:14 AM
      • I actually agree with you on the point that we don’t need new laws for bullying. We already have laws for most bullying behavior: physical assault, harassment, threats, etc. I mostly commented because while I realize that you were mostly writing about the call for laws, I disagree with your bolded statement that bullies aren’t the problem. I feel that placing a scarlet letter on bullies and separate laws are extreme in the way that I feel totally ignoring bullies is extreme. That’s not what you said, but that’s how it came across. In this society we have a history of saying that bullying is kids being kids (I don’t share that belief) and contrary to your statement, usually tolerating such behavior. That is how it gets to the point of child suicides. The proposed laws you mention are over-correcting for our former/current wrongs. We just need to apply and enforce the rules and laws that we already have. There are a lot of adults looking the other way or giving inconsequential verbal admonishments instead of enforcing existing rules when it comes to children’s transgressions. It happens with adults in adult environments as well, but it’s a more serious issue when this happens with children who don’t know how to or can’t advocate for themselves. It’s also more serious with children in terms of nipping stuff in the bud as it were. In terms of minors, I’m not comfortable with the term punish. My view is that the behavior should be corrected.

        Moving on to another point, correction is one way that unknowing parents of bullies become aware parents. If existing rules were actually enforced, parents would be getting those phone calls about their children’s transgressions . I don’t believe that parents inherently have little control over their children. We can’t make all parents share the same views, but I think awareness via less tolerance would help in my stated goal of minimizing bullying. Some parents would take those calls seriously and act accordingly. Even if parents of bullies are uncooperative, institutions like schools have the right to set forth rules that make behaviors that may be acceptable in some homes unacceptable in the school. Even other families have these rights. Every house has its rules and if visitors don’t respect them, well then they don’t get to visit anymore, right?

        Analogies are often so problematic but I’m going to go there anyway: there will always be sexual assaults, but I’m not going to stand by and say boys will be boys or men will be men (not that all assaults are perpetrated by men). To prevent future assaults I’m not going to focus on what the sexually assaulted person was doing during or after their assault. I’m going to remove the sexual predator from the population. I’m going to examine how/why the sexual predator was created and how I can prevent the creation of future sexual predators. Everyone who commits a transgression is not a born psychopath. Social influences and lack thereof create the other criminals. In my view, the transgressor is the problem and that’s what I want to solve.

        Posted by MP | November 4, 2011, 10:16 PM
      • @MP You’re right, analogies are problematic when they are not properly used to support your argument. Sexual assault, a violent, physical and criminal act punishable law rarely performed by school-aged children is simply NOT analogous to childhood teasing (which I made clear is what I am referring to, not physical violence or assault by bullies, which is punishable by law).

        I NEVER said that “ignoring bullies” was the way to go. I think bullies should be reprimanded for their behavior, but when it comes to a child committing suicide, the problem is more deeply rooted and should not be attributed to bullying. There’s usually more to it than that.

        I still feel that teasing or taunting is something that will never go away, it’s a part of life, and the sooner kids learn to deal with it, and face their bullies, the better off they’ll be in the long run, and as adults. The ways in which that is done is through the steps that I mentioned in the article. I think we essentially agree that bullying should not be punishable by law, but the suggestion that bullying should be punished by law is what contributed to my desire to write this article.

        Posted by 30thoughts | November 4, 2011, 11:17 PM
      • Oh this may have been implied, but I did not mention that I believe that teasing one of MANY bullying behaviors. Teasing, intimidation, physical violence, and other hostile acts can all fall under bullying. Some of my bullies started out “just” teasing me and escalated to physical contact. In another dangerous parallel analogy, domestic abusers don’t usually start off with brutal beatings–it starts with verbal and emotional abuse.

        Posted by MP | November 4, 2011, 10:25 PM
      • I’m glad you raised this argument because it was actually brought up during a discussion I had with a friend the other night about this article. Domestic abusers also should not be compared to kids who tease or taunt other children because domestic abuse while emotional and verbal is coming from someone that you love or that purports to love you. There is often no way to escape this person or the feelings you have for them and so you endure it. Most times, childhood teasing is not being carried out in a “domestic situation.” These are kids you know nothing about, and who really should not dictate how you feel about yourself as your parents, siblings, family, or a significant other or spouse would.

        Again, most kids were victims of bullying (teasing or taunting again is what I am addressing), and many kids were bullies. I myself was on both sides of the fence. Bullies should be reprimanded and discouraged from doing so, but more importantly, kid victims should be taught how to cope and deal with these bullies, so they will not resort to drastic measures, such as suicide, to free them from ridicule. It should never be that serious.

        Posted by 30thoughts | November 4, 2011, 11:28 PM

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