Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Do You Bully Yourself?

by Kathy Foust

Ah I bet you never thought that maybe you were bullying yourself did you? Yea? When's the last time you made yourself do something that was actually against your nature or maybe it was even something that was healthy for you to do but you had to bully yourself into it. Let's take a look at some examples.

Dieting: A healthy diet doesn't just mean losing weight and getting in shape. It's a matter of getting your mind together as well. So, when you cut yourself down in an effort to get rid of some of that excess weight, you're really doing more harm than good and might even have an eating disorder because of it. Never experienced this one? Let's try something else...

Dating: You're in a relationship and putting up with some crap that you would have told your best friend to get rid of long ago. But wait, aren't you supposed to be your own best friend first? What's your reason for putting up with this? Because your significant other can pronounce the words "I love you"? On some level, you've convinced yourself that you are in some way unworthy or worse yet, you're responsible for the crap your significant other throws your way. Either way, wrong answer. But maybe you've never done that either. Unlikely, but hey I'm willing to go out on a limb here so let's try another.

Work: You hate your job, but won't try for another because you think you won't make the grade. Newsflash! If you don't try, you'll never find out. Not only that, but if you don't have the skills for the job you want, you might try going out and getting them. Not too many people start out at the top. It takes some doing to get where you want to be.

Stop bullying yourself. When you do it, you give the okay for everyone else to do it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lessons Learned From Major Bullying Incidents

People of all ages commit bullying. A bully does what they do with whatever reason in mind and the reason isn't really important. Let's get to the heart of the matter, ok? Acts of bullying happens simply because one person or group of people think that he/she/they are better than whomever they are targeting. Bullies commit their acts because something about another person calls out to them, and that thing that gets a bully's attention is just a mask for the motivation behind it.

Bullying is done out of hate. In each and every single case, hate was a factor. People from all walks of life have triggers for those things that set off their hate response. Bullies have such a strong hate response that they have much difficulty controlling their impulse to act out against someone else. There are many situations when there can be twenty adults present or the offender/victim relationship is actually between two adults and there are people present who are in positions of authority and still, bullies have been known to disregard this protective barrier and act out anyway.

Those who commit the most destructive and gross acts of bullying resulting in critical injuries or death are usually those who were living in isolation due to being silently shoved out of the community and ignored like they aren't even alive. We in America are the worst when it comes to this type of behavior. We are a society who have mastered the game of "provoke and cry victim when something happens."

You've heard of reverse discrimination, and this is basically the scenario that we are working with. We'll call it "reverse bullying" because each and every scenario that has resulted in widely publicized bullying cases where critical injury or death has occurred involves an offender whose life events and whose human condition shows deterioration forced upon them by the entire community based solely on narrow, skin deep perceptions and pre-conceptions. Community members speak about someone being publicized for horrendous actions often state that they saw the offender as being "different", "weird", "lonely", "a loner", "a monster", or a "ticking time bomb", perhaps other mean spirited opinions will be given.

The community, law enforcement, prosecutors, mental health professionals, and legislators will go screaming about how we need speech laws, and new laws against whatever central theme played a role on the offender's acting out. They'll all scream about accountability, choices, red flags, etc. Next, they'll demonize every book, every TV program, every movie, every website, every musician and type of music, and every electronic device, that was a part of the offender's life.

The offender could have made better decisions, but what happens when the offender lives in a community where there are no support systems? Few or no jobs? A failing economy or failing local conditions professionally and socially? What happens when a person's power of choice is taken away from him/her? We are living in those times, people! Funding is rapidly being stripped from social and mental health support systems, leaving the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. In the larger metro areas where state support can tend to be given for those who are teetering on the edge of becoming dangerous, these suffering souls will not seek help because they have learned from others about the poor conditions and lack of resources at these state programs / facilities.

For those who have insurance such as state medical aid or private insurance, help can be hard or even impossible to obtain because of the ever growing health care debates and overall level of chaos and crisis of our systems, especially the very system of health care and support that could help prevent violence by suffering people. These are examples of choices being taken from those who are at real risk of becoming violent.

Our society has become so self-important and self-indulgent that we raise all sorts of noise about public safety and point our fingers everywhere, but we never point our own fingers at ourselves. The lesson we have learned is that we have become both our own victms and also our own antagonizers at the same time. We as a society have become co-dependent, blind, numb, dissociative, warped, deluded, hypocrites. No one deserves to be treated violently, no exceptions unless there is self-defense involved. By the time our offender has acted, the offender has bottled it all up for so long that the mind has melted down.

What lessons have we learned so far from major incidents of bullying? That oftentimes help was offered, but usually the wrong way or in such a haphazard way that the attempt was weak and worthless. We have learned that we have to communicate when we see someone at risk of being violent and really reach out to that person so as to make sure that a support network exists until real help can be had. We have learned that we cannot read into everything but we cannot ignore real signs of impending violence either.

Personality changes of an extreme sort should always be questioned, as should changes in personal taste, personal characteristics, behavior out of character for someone or out of place in any situation, we need to pay attention to someone who becomes infatuated with death and / or violence, things that are beyond your usual "goth" darkness themes, pay attention to someone who starts drinking more than usual. Pay attention to the person who becomes isolated, constantly down in the dumps and hopeless - especially so when the things they once enjoyed in life don't mean anything.

Most people have an expressionate side of some sort and will usually use that to communicate their pain, their misery, their dark desires. While we want to again stress the importance of letting a person be artistic and free to have their voice in their chosen medium, do not ignore obviously direct communications of harm. The key here is "Obviously direct" and not some liberal interpretation of this. No matter where you live, the law says that a threat isn't a threat unless it is a direct threat. This means there has to be substantial direct intent to do harm.

Most of all, we have learned that when we treat our fellow human beings like outcasts and when we judge others out of fear, hate, or some other non-descript trigger, even if it was done because you had a bad day, alienation and bullying eventually mix to create disasters over long periods of time. We have learned that we create our own environment for each other to live in, and we can either stop all the over-reacting, and all of the heated debate about everything and anything, we can stop the misuse of morals and religion, and we can stop forcing our opinions/beliefs/personal ways on others, or we will keep creating the same old revolving door.

We get the environment we create, and in the end we have failed ourselves, and set up these bullies to fail. It's become the American way...the double standard. We have learned that none of us are better than the next person.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where is the Supervision?

by Kathy Foust

I have a thought that's been plaguing me for some time now. Where in God's name is the supervision at school? When are the authority figures at school held responsible?

The other day my son came home and told me about him getting in trouble at lunch in school. Apparently his buddies were talking and he wasn't but he lost his recess because he was by them. When he mentioned to the adult in charge that he hadn't been talking, she simply told him that he was sitting in the group that was talking.

Nevermind that this particular woman doesn't like me because I've known her husband for the better part of my life and she happens to be very insecure. Had it been an incident worth getting upset over, I would have simply confronted her and asked her to refrain from taking things out on my son. But, I thought Hunter might learn something about choosing where he sits and who he hangs out with more carefully so I let this one go.

But, it does upset me that this same adult is on duty at recess. Why? Because children come to my house and tell me how they were held upside down at recess to have their money shaken from their pants. Or, that they were bullied on the monkey bars until they lept off in fear...and landed on their tail bone. It just so happens that in these incidents, the same woman was on duty.

Someone please tell me how an adult can confront a child about something like talking in line or at lunch, but not see flagrant bullying going on in the playground. And, in case you're wondering, I've been the adult on duty on the playground and found it impossible to miss when there was a physical altercation of any kind.

More and more I begin to think that the level of protection a child receives is entirely dependent on who his or her parents are and how the child has been labeled in schools. I see all too often how children get labeled one year and the adults seem to base their entire opinion on one incident the child did. I just want to say that if people had treated me in one way based on one single negative action in my life, well let's just say that there are plenty to choose from and that no one deserves to have their entire image wrapped in one or two incidents.

For the record, my' child isn't personally labeled that I know of, but I know kids who are and I can see the difference in the way they are with me and the way they are with other adults. Maybe it's because I see more than just a small person with a flaw? Aren't we all entitled to that?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Checklist: Are You a Bully?

by Saoirse O'Mara

Have you ever wondered if you are a bully towards other people, maybe unconsciously, without even realising it? How can you notice that you are? Here is a checklist:

  • Do you snap at people?

  • Do you complain if you have to wait somewhere, e.g. in the supermarket?

  • Do you make jokes about other people?

  • Do you talk about other people behind their backs?

  • Do you order other people around?

These above are all characteristics of bullies. I bet everyone of us has done at least one of these things every now and then. However, if you know that this is bullying, you can watch yourself in the future and avoid bullying others anymore.

Let's all do something against bullying by beginning with ourselves!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Classroom Integration and Bullying

by Kathy Foust

I know that kids in special education classes need to develop social skills. I know that kids who aren't in those classes need to develop tolerance. I just don't think that classroom integration is the way to go, at least not the way it's practiced now.

Here's what happens.

Kids who are in special education classes are in them because they need some extra help somewhere, whether it be due to behavioral problems, medical problems, mental health issues or learning disorders. When those kids are forced to integrate with the mainstream classrooms, a couple of different things happen.

For one, that child is going to stand out simply because they have to leave the classroom every now and then for their special education portion. Or, an aide is with them. The one thing a child doesn't want to do in public school is stand out from a crowd. As soon as they do, they're marked for some type of harassment from the other students.

Moving on...

A child who acts out in class not only disrupts the class, but, you guessed it, draws more negative attention to themselves.

And yet...we still don't take responsibility for bullying in schools? umm..okay then.

Moving on...

Do you know that some children actually learn how to be disabled? Kids are so much smarter than they are given credit for. They have tons of room in those little brains to learn new things. So, as we try to teach our children to behave, we sit them in a room with a child who misbehaves while the teachers tell the other children that the misbehaving child can't control it because they have a disability. Now, what do you think happens in the brains of those children who aren't excused for their behavior? One of 3 things.

They ignore it and stick to their normal routine.
They observe that if you have a disability, you can be excused for negative behavior, thus they begin adopting some of the symptoms of that disability.
They torture the crap out of the kid that gets away with everything.

Something to think about.

I'm just saying, if we want to set all of our children up for failure, integration is the perfect answer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Self Acceptance

Healthy self acceptance is half the ammunition you need when it comes to protecting yourself from bullies. If you don't accept yourself, not only are you a welcome target for bullies, but in a way, you're even bullying yourself. There are more than enough people out there willing to try to make you into someone you aren't without you actually trying to help them do it.

Self acceptance doesn't mean always being right or that you are prefect. We all have flaws and it's important that we accept those flaws as part of who we are. Of course, self improvement is a great goal to have, but you still need to be okay with who you are before you try to improve that person. Otherwise, you're really just trying to wipe that person out.

The differences between you and other people might scare you. Those differences might even make you feel like you stand out like a beacon in the night. The good news is that you're right, but not in the way you think. Those differences are the things that make you stand out, but instead of being something bad, they are likely the very things that will push you towards success if you let them.

Embrace who you are. Faults and all. As long as you aren't hurting yourself or anyone else by your actions, you're on the right track.