The Elephant in the Room: How Kids Learn to Bully

Recently, I attended a school meeting to discuss progress and create plans for an energetic, kind, insightful fourth grader.

The teachers, school counselor, parents and principal intently discussed accommodations that would help this student stay organized and on task. The conversation flowed naturally into the child’s needs during non-classroom portions of the day, such as recess, lunch and bus rides. Reluctantly, bravely, the parents began to share the difficulty their child was experiencing during these unstructured periods of time.

Tears flowed. Anger surfaced.

The team refocused the discussion on what one researcher calls “a pervasive public health problem.”

Bullying.

The parents described specific examples of social aggression…exclusion, rumor-spreading, teasing. The staff listened intently, and somewhat incredulously. “We had no idea this was going on…” And that is understandable. Bullying can be incredibly subtle–even silent–and quite easy to miss.

kidsgossip

As the team discussed a plan to address this issue, a team member ruefully asked, “Where do they learn this?”

At that moment, a glossy magazine on the corner of the table caught my eye:

cctimemag

And then I knew the answer.

While this Time cover may be construed as clever, it has been perceived as insulting, unkind and just plain mean. Bullying.

Most kids don’t need to have a subscription of Time to learn the subtle tactics of social aggression…they have adults in their schools, churches and neighborhoods that will model mastery for them in real life.

adultgossip

Think about the kinds of things they hear…

“Did you see the Halloween costumes Alice made for her kids? Sheesh. Talk about elaborate. She’s clearly got too much time on her hands…”

“Hey…thanks for inviting us to your timeshare for spring break. It’s going to be SO much fun. Are the Donaldsons and Hansons coming, too? All our kids are going to have a great time on the beach…” (said in front of those who were not included)

“Have you noticed the Margaret’s kids? They are OUT of control. Wow. I heard the police took the oldest in for drug possession. Margaret’s really got her hands full. Bless her heart.”

“Hey, I want you to pray for Marty. He just can’t seem to keep a job…he got fired AGAIN! But I’m telling you so you’ll pray for them. It’s not gossip.”

We’re the Elephant in the Room.
I am.
You are.

And our little elephants are watching and listening…
And everyone knows…elephants remember everything.

Photo credits: eonline; images.smh;mycolormusic.

Five Facts for Friday {1-17-14}

Five Facts for Friday:
5blacktop
1. Back in the day, the “spokesperson” for Poptarts was a toaster named Milton. Does anyone else remember this?
2. Visiting colleges shouldn’t be about finding the best college; it should be about finding the best college for the student.
3. The Westminster Dog Show may begin to include “mixed breeds,” which means that Mitzie, the Irish Labraterre, can compete. (We totally made up “Irish Labraterre.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?)
4. In honor …of MLK day on Monday, my sister, Betsy and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have about Dr. King. Our dad made us write reports about him when we were kids, because he felt our knowledge was lacking.
5. My sister-in-law Katy posted an interesting article that raised this question: Should you impose consequences on your kids, or allow “natural consequences” to teach them? Discuss…
Hope you have a happy and warm weekend!
~Katie

Playing With Fire: Social Media and Communication

photo credit: stayinsavannah.com

photo credit: stayinsavannah.com

Fire.

We’re drawn to it, aren’t we? It’s warm, inviting, and peaceful. It casts a soft glow. We use it for toasting marshmallows and warming our toes after sledding. Fire can help us send signals for help and warning.  It refines and heats and draws us together.

And it’s dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

photo credit: fatwallet.com

photo credit: fatwallet.com

It occurs to me that social media is rather like fire.

We can use it to warm others–and warn others. It can draw us together around a cause, or just for fun. It can connect us.

And, just like fire, it can be dangerous. It can spread rapidly, causing destruction and injury and loss.

Perhaps the most dangerous part is that we can say things online we might not say face-to-face. The internet gives us an imaginary sense of security. But just like tossing a match onto a pile of dry leaves, a fire can start quickly, causing scars that will never, ever heal. And sadly, no smoke detector will warn others, and even copious amounts of water won’t be able to drown the damage.

Today, I’m asking myself, “Will my words cast a warm glow, or will they be a weapon of mass destruction?”

After all, it only takes a spark to get a fire going…

What kind of fire am I building with my words?

photo credit: blog.kevineikenberry.com

photo credit: blog.kevineikenberry.com