elephant

The Elephant in the Room: How Kids Learn to Bully

Child Development / Issues Kids Deal With / Spiritual Formation //

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.

Comments

comments

Comments

comments

About the Author

Katie Wetherbee completed her undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University, where she majored in Special Education and Human & Organizational Development. Katie began her teaching career in the Washington, DC area at a public school. Since then, she has taught in a variety of settings, including a community college, a psychiatric hospital day school and a learning center. Katie holds a master’s degree in education from Hood College, where she served on the adjunct faculty for the Reading Specialist program. Currently, Katie works as an educational consultant in private practice. Her own experience as a mother to a child with special needs, along with her teaching background, gives Katie a unique perspective on advocacy. She has been invited to speak at local parent groups and also for the Northern Ohio Hemophilia Association, the Cancer Survivor Center at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and the OCALI national conference. Additionally, Katie is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in publications such as Nashville Magazine, Northeast Ohio Family, and HeartShapers. She served as the education columnist for Currents News in Northeast Ohio for two years. She recently completed a year-long series on special needs ministry for K! Magazine and also writes a column for Children’s Ministry Magazine. A lifelong Christian, Katie has enjoyed a variety of volunteer positions in churches. She has taught both Sunday School and Vacation Bible School as well as volunteering in high school and middle school youth groups. She and her husband led a Young Couples group in two churches. In addition, Katie has served on Christian Education Committees and as a Sunday School Superintendent. Katie is thrilled to combine her passion for families affected by disabilities with her faith in Christ. Katie has presented at the Joni and Friends International Bioethics Conference, the Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church, The Tough Ministries Conference in Houston, and the Group Publishing KidMin Conference. She is currently working on a book designed for Sunday School volunteers, and also serves on the special needs curriculum team for Standard Publishing. Katie’s most important credential is her “MBA:” She is MOM to Bill and Annie. Katie and her husband, Tom, live with their two teenagers and a quirky mutt named Mitzie, in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Why “Diving for Pearls?” Click here for the story.