Recently, I read a story in our town paper on the topic of bullying. I found the article very disturbing and a little one-sided when it came to who are the targets of bullying. Philip, my husband, experienced bullying and he may not be the stereotypical target you imagine him to be.
This is his story:
One of the big benefits of homeschooling is mitigating the bullying issue so prevalent today in our schools; both public and private. I was a recipient of bullying (primarily in middle school) and can’t express the level of dread about attending school/the bus stop and potentially running into my bully. I recall walking in circles over and over again in my house as I counted down the time before I had to head out the door. Some will say that the child needs to learn to handle these conflicts on their own so they have the experience of overcoming the challenges that we will all face in life; I believe we are here to build their character, not to allow others to tear it down. The main thing I would hope to leave my child with as a result of my parenting is tremendous confidence in themselves. If they experience a consistent threat throughout their formative years, I believe there can be lingering effects to their level of confidence as the child matures. I am not proud to say that the result for me it was being overly-aggressive when confronted with these types of situations in High School and College.
This over-aggressiveness has lingered in various forms. Sometimes in work situations, I am over sensitized to perceived (and real) challenges from peers. I tend to be more aggressive in these situations and have had to work on not pressing “send” immediately on retaliatory e-mails! While many of us have these inclinations, I sense that it comes from my sensitivity to “not being a coward” in ANY situation; no matter if it is appropriate (rarely) or not. I have an unhealthy fear of being perceived as a coward and consistently take actions that attempt to combat that distinction.
The new dimension that I was fortunate enough to not have to contend is Cyber bullying. This seems to be “bullying on steroids” from the perspective of the viral nature of these attacks. As we have seen, there are many cases where this type of bullying has resulted in an increase in teen suicide due to how pervasive these threats become in their world. Regardless whether they take those extreme measures, it is still a source of constant anxiety and fear that permeate their waking hours. We are naïve to think there are not long-term repercussions as a result. Imagine not being able to escape from bullying; at least I could escape when I got home but now there is no escape. Kids can now send out vitriol and venom viewed by many after schools hours.
Some may say homeschooling parents “coddle” their children and their life skills are developed through some of the challenges described above. I say in response; life is challenging enough! Why not insure there is a strong foundation laid for a love of learning, the confidence of finding their own voice and come into these situations without the cracks and dents many of us bring with us into our development. I believe our children would be better able to cope with challenging situations with a base free of these fissures.
For those parents who think that bullying only happens to some kids, I would like to dispel that notion. While kids who are non-threatening may attract attention, sometimes it is the kids that pose the biggest threat who are targeted; that was what occurred in my case. I was 6’4 by the time I was a junior in High School and played D1 Football at over 285 pounds (I’m still at 285 today although the weight is distributed very differently). To this day, I still have that sensitivity and fear of being pegged as a coward which some could see as a dangerous combo! But those are the scars that can linger when faced with these types of situations at a young age.