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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Treat Others The Way You Want To Be Treated

Ever since I started writing it, I've used this blog to express myself because it really is the best way for me to share my thoughts, feelings, etc.  So, while I'm sure many people will have various opinions on what I am about to write, just know that it is my perspective on what is often a sensitive issue.  Given some recent events, it is something that I've thought about more over the last few days than I have in a long time. 

Bullying.  Unfortunately we hear about it all the time.  Too many kids are victims of all sorts of bullying.  And the definition of bullying has become so broad with increased availability of social media.  I'm only 34 years old.  According to some of my students, I'm not old.  Although there are times I feel that way.  That being said, it's astounding to me what kids today have to deal with on a regular basis.  I am thankful every day I grew up before social media existed.  Kids have 24/7 access to anyone.  Including people they want to taunt, tease or bully.  Home used to be a safe place for kids who were having a difficult time at school.  Unfortunately, that's often not the case anymore.  Don't get me wrong, most kids still feel safe at home, with their family, parents, etc.  But, they can no longer fully escape from the trials they go through on a daily basis unless they completely unplug from the world.  And, if you know any pre-teen or teenager, you know there is about a one in a million chance of that ever happening.  

I probably have a very different point of view on this because I've been on both sides of the equation.  I was bullied throughout middle school and high school.  It wasn't overt.  I never felt physically threatened.  But, emotionally, I was down on myself every day.  I never felt I could trust anyone.  The way people spoke to me and about me (when they knew I could hear them) was more hurtful than I could ever put into words.  To this day it affects me.  There were things posted in my locker from time to time that were extremely hurtful and untrue.  I kept it all to myself.  I don't know why.  Maybe because I was embarrassed.  Or because I didn't think anyone could do anything to stop it.  But, mostly, it was probably because I didn't want to know what would happen if I told on the people bullying me.  If I even knew who they were, which, sometimes I wasn't 100% sure.  While I so wished someone would see how much I was hurting, I wasn't willing to reach out for help.  I had plenty of adults that I trusted at school, but, deep down, I really think I was embarrassed.

As a guidance counselor for the last 11 years, I can see the other side of this issue.  I HATE hearing about kids being bullied.  I want to fix it for them.  But, I also can't help them if I don't know about it.  I am not a mind reader, although I wish I were at times.  Unfortunately, kids today will do exactly what I did 20 years ago - they'll keep it to themselves.  Being bullied is embarrassing.  It damages your self-esteem in ways I don't think everyone understands. 

My best advice is this - teach your children to love and respect one another and model that for them.  Even though I was bullied, it never entered my mind to react in a mean and spiteful way.  I wasn't raised that way.  Since the day I came into this world, my parents have demonstrated how to have love and respect for everyone you meet.  They raised me, my brother and my sister that way and I couldn't be more thankful for that.  It's not in my nature to be outright mean to others.  And I firmly believe that is because of the way I was raised.   If your child is being bullied, report it.  Immediately.   Don't be afraid.  As long as you treat people with respect, I honestly believe you (and your child) will be treated with respect with regards to your specific situation. Treat others as you would want to be treated. You know your child best.  If something doesn't seem right, don't be afraid to question it.  I know I got so mad at my parents when they would question me about lots of things.  Looking back now... it's because they cared.  And because they could see something was wrong. 

As I stated above, as a kid who was bullied, I kept it to myself.  To an extent, I shared some of it with my family but they never knew how bad I felt about it or myself.  I kept all of that inside.  And I never shared it with anyone at school.  Unfortunately, I think that is still the case with most kids today.  It's embarrassing to admit you are being bullied.  You don't want to draw attention to it.   But. that's exactly what needs to happen to begin to resolve any situation with regards to kids having a difficult time.

You might be thinking, why write about this now?  Well, because it is always a relevant topic.  But, also, because it is something that has affected me throughout my life.  I believe it was a huge part of the beginning of my depression (which I believe started back in my teenage years).  Thankfully, I didn't have access to the things kids see these days through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the internet and all the other resources out there. 

I think the bottom line is this - 

And, as I once heard at a school assembly - 

"People will never know how far a little kindness can go"    - Rachel Joy Scott