I was about halfway through Dear Bully, a new book of essays from 70 big name teen lit authors (for my fellow YA fans, I'm talking the likes of Megan McCafferty, Alyson Noel, R.L. Stine, etc.) when it hit me. These were all grown-ups talking about some of the worst days of childhood. And almost none had kind words to say about adults.
If they talked to their parents about their experiences at all -- because, let's face it, most were too afraid to even try -- they got the sort of predictable responses that make the old DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince classic play through my head. "Maybe he likes you." "Just ignore it and it will go away." "Tell them to leave you alone, and they will." Yeah, parents just don't understand. Because if you've ever dealt with a bully, you know those answers are all a bunch of straight-up BS.
Kids are mean because there's an evil streak in most of humanity. And they'll keep on being mean until someone stops them ... or until they move on to their next victim. Alexis Eggleton, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Orange & Sullivan Counties in upstate New York, calls what happens to kids today "our bullying on steroids. Kids have less culpability than ever before, believing that words written over Facebook, AIM, or email somehow aren't as damaging as words said in person. And most of what is said via cyberbullying are comments that most kids would never have the audacity or cojones to say to a person's face."
Scared? This will make it worse: your kid is at risk. According to the statistics (straight out of the book): Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. An adult will intervene 4 percent of the time. A peer will intervene 11 percent of the time. Do the math, that leaves 85 percent of victims with zero support.
As long as you hold to the outdated "oh, kids will be kids" and "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" shtick, you can't protect your kids. You can't protect your kid from bullies until you start thinking like a kid. You have to take a walk in their shoes.
Maybe you were bullied as a kid (I hope not for your sake, but for theirs it might be best). Think about what happened then, and specifically why you lacked faith in the adults in your lives. Did they ignore you? Did they make it worse? Did you think that telling them the truth would make them look at you differently? Remember what it was like back then, and you can help your kids now.
Were you a bullied kid?
Image via Dear Bully
Disclosure: I received an advanced reader's copy of Dear Bully. All opinions are my own, and I received no compensation for this mention.