Who knows about bullying? Look in the mirror!
By Martha Adair, LLP
After an appearance at Rogers Elementary in Berkley with “Defeat the Label,” the national bully prevention entity based here in Michigan, 3rd grade teacher Christine Kuhl made an eye-opening observation:
“Generally speaking, we’ve all been bullied by a sibling and when I ask my students to raise their hands if they’ve never bullied someone, there’s never anybody. There isn’t the crowd of people that are the bad guys and the crowd that are the good guys; we’ve all bullied and been bullied so how do we deal with it?”
New Oakland is dealing with it by having myself and some of our other therapists take part in a 20 school tour around metro Detroit sponsored by “Defeat the Label” and “Amp Radio,” 98.7. October is national bully prevention month, and it became quickly apparent to us that from 2nd graders through high school age kids are knowledgeable in regards all aspects of bullying. They know how to make assertive remarks to bullies and to properly inform adults when they observe bullying behavior.
So, if everyone is aware of it and agrees that we all need to try to stop it, why does bullying remain at epidemic levels
with suicides related to bullying an all too common an occurrence? Kuhl, who’s taught 3rd graders for 31 years at Rogers, feels that it’s pervasive in our society and therefore continually perpetrated and imitated at every level.
“When I teach government, we talk about the idea of bullies being grownups that bully other grownups. It’s not going to go away when you get big. People are going to say things that are not true and that’s not going to stop. At the school level, every year the bullies get more sophisticated in doing it in front of people they know aren’t going to have the nerve to stop them.”
Thanks to “Defeat the Label,” Michigan school systems have had to implement anti-bullying programs, and it certainly seems like there is increased awareness. But awareness isn’t enough with kids. It’s also a matter of who delivers the message. Having personalities and entertainers from the radio stations they listen to helps pound home the message.
“Bullying is something they’re experiencing daily,” says Kuhl,” and if they see it daily then we need to tell them as often as we can how to respond to it. When we bring in radio personalities and musicians, people they can identify with, they’re associating it with being cool. When people who love music and all the things we think of as cool are saying you shouldn’t be doing these things, it has more impact. And that’s the association that I’m getting with sessions like this.”
When kids are exposed to parents that may bully each other; when they hear politicians leveling mean spirited and often untruthful accusations, our kids are being poisoned.
“Mean people are mean people,” Kuhl laments. “They’re not cool. They’re not anything but mean and that’s the message I’m hoping they’re getting.”
And we at New Oakland will continue to our part to drive that message home.