Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bullying--Where Are the Parents?

Phoebe Prince. She was a 15-year-old girl in Massachusetts who hanged herself after ceaseless bullying by a number of her peers. Her peers will stand trial in the coming weeks, maybe months, for a number of felony charges. If you read the article linked to above, you will find it really delves into what I wanted to talk about.

This is a dreary subject, but after reading the news accounts of this tragedy, I really began to ponder it. I believe this whole story and incident is quite tragic and very sad for her family. But who is really at fault here?

This is becoming a huge problem in our society--bullies who heckle and peck and are so relentlessly mean that the ones they bully feel they have no other choice but to somehow disappear. What does that say about the parents of these teens?

As the author of the article points out, the school, parents, bullies and society are all to blame. But I honestly think the most crucial influence in all of these are the parents of the bullies. The article states:

Here’s my question to all of you parents out there: Do you know your children well enough to know that they would never participate in acts of cruelty like this? Have you ever talked to them about bullying? The disintegration of the American family is a crucial issue in this whole mess. Many parents work, have obligations, hobbies and other commitments. Their kids are left to their own devices without any guidance or support to know what is, or is not, acceptable behavior.

And that is the truth of it--how well do you know your children? What are you teaching them and what standards are you really holding them to?

I have my own story to share of dealing with a bully. When I was 12 years old, in the sixth grade, there was a girl in my class who didn't like me. I will never know the reasons, she was nice to me in earlier grades and even again in later grades, but for some reason, that year, she was horrible. She spread vicious rumors about me, was downright mean to me, influenced her circle of friends to do it too.

One day I found some really nasty things written about me in a girls' bathroom stall. I recognized the handwriting as hers. I felt hurt, and I told my parents. This was after weeks of complaining to my parents about her abusive treatment, and them consoling me and telling me to ignore her, that she was wrong and just mean and I needed to take the high road. After this incident, my parents went over to talk with her parents. Most kids don't like that, but at this point, I was solidly behind their decision. The result?

Her parents were insistent that their "sweet daughter could never do anything like that." They refused to believe that she was capable of such meanness and let the matter drop. I don't remember how much more she bothered me, and by the time we started junior high the next year, she had moved on from bullying me to completely ignoring me. By the time we were in 9th grade, we had more interaction and she was even nice to me, so whatever threat I had posed to her before must have passed. I am glad that I had my parents to lean on and love me and teach me how to deal with such bullying in a graceful way, yet I am still appalled by the reaction of her parents. And I know that there are many parents out there who believe the same thing. Like their child can do no wrong!

Now, I love my children, but I also know, as they have so demonstrated from the time they have been really small, that they are capable of being mean and hurtful. Everyone is. That's why it's so important that we really know our children and recognize not just their potential, but also accept that they are human and make bad decisions sometimes.

I do feel very sorry for the parents of Phoebe Prince. How sad they must feel! They did try and do something about the problem but were not listened to. And I really do wonder where the parents of those other teens were in all this.


ISBAM said...

It does seem that the parents of bullies either don't believe their child could do such a thing, or they don't care that their child is a bully. Some are even happy that their kid has become the bully. I have no control over that, but I can certainly do my best to teach my children respect for others.

Devin & Ruthann said...

That is a great article you linked to. I feel terrible for her family. I can't believe how mean some kids are! That poor girl!

Evelyn Perkins said...

There were several kids who were mean to me in jr high but I never thought of it as bullying. That is probably essentially what it was. Hmm...I'm sure it's so much worse than just the ten years since I was in school. Scares me to send my kid into such a maelstrom.

swedemom said...

Years ago, when I taught seminary, one girl was bullying another boy in the class. She was so mean to him. I talked to her mother about what I saw and her mother didn't believe me. Said her daughter wouldn't do such a thing.

Lynn said...

Ages 10-13 are terrible ages for girls. I did my share of mean things, which I suppose made me a bully. I think lumping all the same age kids into one school may add to the problem, but I went to a small school so I don't even have that excuse.

At age 13 I was a victim of a hate letter from my supposed best friend. To make the story shorter, let's just say that the bishop gave a gentle talk to our entire Beehive class, and the girl apologized to me. That may seem drastic but sometimes it takes drastic.

Lisa said...

This story is so sad and senseless. I hated the movie Mean Girls. Sadly, to much like what could really happen. Coming from MMB


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