Who does bullying affect?
The school teachers.
Certainly not adults like you and me.
We’ve taken our licks. We’ve made it through the teasing and the pushing and the fighting and now we are stronger than ever, totally unaffected by the brutes of our past. We would be spineless, wiggly worms without the help of bullies to toughen us up. Only good came out of it, right? Right?
Take me for example. I barely notice that I fear rejection from people I consider “cool” or that my face hardens into a scowl when someone I deem more hip than I is laughing close by me. They could be laughing at me; I’d better put my armor on. Being fearful of making new friends is such a part of me now that I push potential new friends away almost unconsciously. It’s fine. They were all going to end up making fun of me anyway.
Or how about my friend Elsie? Sure, she is terrified of speaking up in public because she is convinced that she will sound stupid. And sure, the last time someone teased her unmercifully about it was when she was in middle school. And yes, it affects her job and social life but so? She’s still ok, right?
Or what about Mark? He is 26 and acts like a 12 year old because it was the last time he felt safe and happy. He can’t maintain a stable relationship or job because he doesn’t think he can hack it. He’s going to fail the same way he did in the sixth grade, where a kid kept calling him stupid and ugly and eventually the whole class was in the on the joke. He never talks to girls now, he thinks they all hate him and eventually, he hates them all back. And he never tries to go the extra mile because why bother? He knows he’s a dummy. But that’s his fault, right?
And then there is Leon. He is 54 and still a bully. He bullied his wife, who left him. He bullied his children, who left him. He stomps through life angry and confused, pushing things around and exploding when they push back. He doesn’t understand. Through elementary, middle, and high school he pushed and fought through life, establishing dominance by picking on the weak. He didn’t know another way to cope and he didn’t have to, it worked then. He doesn’t understand why it won’t work now. Karma, huh?
What if someone had stepped in when we were at our most vulnerable and had made the abuse stop? What if someone had told us that we are not stupid or ugly or lame, but wonderful and special? What if there were resources to help us see that bullies have serious self-esteem issues, or maladaptive coping skills, and that there was a better way to see and relate to the world? What if we didn’t take these mean-spirited actions as “kidding around” and showed kids that abusing other people is NOT ok in any context? What if we stopped believe that abuse is necessary to build strength and started realizing guided support is much more effective?
When we were growing up, bullying was a serious epidemic sweeping our schools worldwide. Nowadays, it’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; it’s in text messages, secret cyber groups, and memes. It’s motive is the same as it was when we were kids; to tear down the exposed and weak. And it’s becoming more efficient than ever.
While we rally and wait for the nation to take legal action, the only thing we can do is equip our children with the only things that will help them see through the mistreatment; self-esteem and insight. Ava, the little girl in this book discovers just that, and though her situation does not change immediately her outlook does allowing her character safe passage through the taunts. More importantly, readers discover two sides to bullying, the one we all know and the one that we are less familiar with, helping us to realize that there are two victims in every bullying incident and that it is not something to be ignored.
The scars we suffer from being bullied or being bullies are invisible, but the effects are not. It’s our responsibility to do all we can to make sure that our children do not suffer the same fate.