Thursday, October 21, 2010


My friend Elizabeth tipped me off to this blog post on bullying from Dan Pierce of "Single Dad Laughing." It's long, but it's heartfelt. I invite you to read it and then come back here...

This post illustrates a chronic problem endemic to the bullying epidemic: abdication of responsibility. Parents aren't parenting. Teachers aren't teaching. Leaders aren't leading. Simply saying to a bully -- as Dan's teacher once did -- "John, that's enough," is not discipline. It is telling a child, "That's enough for now." The adult is not drawing a line on what is acceptable behavior but simply postponing the matter until later.

Now, if that teacher had said, "John, we don't make fun of people's weight, and if you do, young man, you will be spending time after school writing a five-hundred word essay on bulimia," perhaps that would've adjusted his attitude. Or maybe he would have seen Dan as the new teachers' pet. Dan, however, would've known he had an ally.

As Mr. Pierce points out, many people will say "I never knew," when they're close to a bullying tragedy like the death of the Rutgers student or the four students who took their lives in Mentor, Ohio. Of course you didn't. The bullied built themselves a castle with a moat and drawbridge, and they wouldn't let you in.

The bullied realize everybody around them fails them, torments them, or burns them through false friendship. They don't go to their parents, because those parents have told them to be strong. They don't even trust GOD, because they can't understand why they're suffering under a loving GOD. I found this paragraph from Mr. Pierce's memoir telling:
"In ninth grade, the girls started getting involved. The popular, "hot" girls started doing things like asking me out, then laughing in my face before I could answer. They would invite me to come to parties or hang-outs and then laugh some more when they saw that I had hopes that their invitations were sincere. It only took a few of these moments before I believed that any desire, by any girl, to hang out with me would always be a joke."
Up go the stone walls and the heavy wooden gate. Yet the turrets have no archers, nobody to defend against the attackers who pound at the door, and somehow the combatants keep getting in. When the castle is compromised and nobody is there to defend the king, his majesty might decide it is better to die by his own sword than to be humiliated by the enemy. Abdication is not an option, even though everybody around them did.

It's time to pick the scepter back up. Parents, it means you talk to your children, using some of the suggestions Dan Pierce mentions in his post. You have a relationship with your children's teachers, which means you attend those parent conferences religiously. Don't be disappointed if your children say, "Nothing much," when you ask what they did at school. This is more a matter of fatigue than repression; would you gladly tell the kids what you did at work all day?

But above all, dearest readers, you must draw lines. Tell a child who starts heckling, "We don't do that to other people. Would you want somebody doing that to you?" We don't need more laws. We don't need more counselors. What we need are people willing to stand in the gap.

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