Bullying taken seriously now | VailDaily.com

Bullying taken seriously now

Joe Hoy

EAGLE COUNTY – When I was a kid growing up in a small town in upstate New York, I had a friend by the name of J.R. We went to elementary school together and did all the things young kids did back in the mid-’50s. When we started middle school, J.R. started to change. I watched as he transformed from the young childhood friend I knew into a strong, solid-built young teen with a quick temper and a pushy attitude. He soon realized that with his new power of persuasion, he could easily intimidate others and get his way. We still hung out together, along with a group of guys, but it was always an uneasy situation. You never knew when J.R. would turn on you and make you the target of his verbal abuse and temper. Frankly, more than once he became physically aggressive with me. However, back then it was just a part of growing up, learning limitations or schoolyard rough-housing. Eventually, J.R. and I grew apart and went to different high schools. We just lost touch with each other.The point of this story is that what once seemed to be normal teenage behavior has now become a major concern of childhood safety. Bullying has always been a problem at schools, but in the wake of recent, well publicized, violent school incidents people are beginning to recognize the seriousness and consequences of bullying. According to a recent study printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly one-third of children and teenagers in America said they have experienced bullying, either as a victim or as a perpetrator.Bullying by its very nature is about size, strength and power. It may consist of intimidation, harassments and threats. It can exist in many forms: physical (pushing, punching and hitting); verbal (name calling and threats of physical harm); psychological or emotional (spreading rumors or excluding someone from an activity or conversation). It can have long-lasting effects, such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. The results of bullying can affect the victims and the bullies, and if not recognized, can build into emotions of resentment and revenge. This creates a potentially dangerous situation.Children who are bullied are more likely to be perceived as an easy target or different in some way by other children. They are often classified as easy targets by other children due to characteristics including build, size, clothing or disabilities such as a speech impediment. Some other factors may be race or the lack of specific social skills.No parent wants to learn that their child has become a target of a bully. And because oftentimes the parents of the bully deny or defend their child’s behavior, the bully is not held responsible for his actions. This only causes the aggressive behavior to progress and in some cases results in a dangerous outcome.When occasional taunting starts to develop into visible harassment, it is time for parents to step in and stop the aggressive behavior before it becomes more serious. Listen to your children and take their complaints seriously. Talk to your child’s school principal and teachers about your concerns. Get with other parents to see if their children have been victims. And above all, talk to your children. Let them know that being bullied is unacceptable behavior and that they can report it to you without consequences.One the other hand, many parents also have a hard time learning that their children have been labeled as bullies. If you ever notice that your son or daughter is suddenly having conflicts at school, it is critical that you find out the cause of the conflict. When asking your children about these conflicts, it is important that you keep an open mind about what might be told to you. Find out the facts by asking questions about what really happened or what was said. Listen closely and try to understand the situation from both sides.If it is clear that your child is actually guilty of bullying, you must act immediately to put a stop to their behavior. Help your children understand that bullying is not acceptable in any way, shape or form by you as parents or by the society as a while. Talk to your school officials to let them know about the situation involving your child. Try to make your child understand that there are legal as well as social consequences to their behaviors. Finally, set an example for your children by not acting out towards other people verbally or physically. When disciplining your children, avoid hitting or shouting loudly at them. Children learn by repeating what they see and hear. It is the responsibility of parents, peers, teachers and, yes, even law enforcement to help create a safe environment for our children to learn and play.Oh, by the way, I saw J.R. about two years ago when I was back east to attend my mother’s funeral. We talked of old times and I got to meet his family. He surprisingly even remembered my birthday go figure. But I just couldn’t stop thinking of the friendly times we missed out on due to J.R.’s past aggressive behavior.Vail, Colorado