Belle on the playground alone
Days with Belle, General

Bullying: something I worry about

I think every parent worries about their child going to school. It seems that in the current times there’s a lot to worry about. We leave them all day long in the care of someone else, and have to trust that they are doing their best to make sure our child is as safe as possible. We have those same concerns, but one thing that stands out above all others–for me–is bullying.

Bullying remains a huge problem, and anyone can be a victim to it. It’s unfortunate, and extremely sad. I want to hug every child that has experienced bullying, and explain to them that it’s not their fault. In fact, if you have ever experienced, or are currently experiencing bullying, please know that it’s not your fault. The short-sightedness of others causes them to feel threatened by anything that is different. Even adults get weirded out by little bugs, and squash them.

I don’t know if there’s a secret formula that makes one kid more susceptible than another, but I’m fairly certain that kids with intellectual, and physical differences are on the top of the list of kids to be bullied. Belle has autism, and it scares me that she will have to face a bully one day. The worst part? It might not even be another kid! How many stories have emerged of teachers mistreating students with autism? (One, two, three, four, …)

Now, we’ve met Belle’s teachers, and aides, and we’re extremely happy with them. We have no reason to believe that they would ever do anything to harm her. Belle is also in preschool, and I don’t believe many children that age are quite ready to start bullying (I didn’t go to preschool, so maybe I just don’t know about it). In fact, there are plenty of kids at school that always say “hi” to her in the halls, and do their best to play with her. We’re extremely hopeful that they’ll remain friends with her in the future! But there’s potential that Belle will start kindergarten next year, and I absolutely hate that idea! I can remember kids being bullied in kindergarten, and it only got worse as each year went by.

Why do I hate that idea?

Belle, at this point, is mostly nonverbal. Her hands usually have something in them. She doesn’t typically play with other kids, and would rather venture off on her own than be in a group of people. It’s classic bully material. I won’t sugarcoat it–if she stays this way, I’m sure her classmates will consider her weird. Do I see it? No. She’s experiencing the world the way that she wants to, and I think that should be encouraged. I can only wish that I could experience the world the way that she does.

I also wish that I could keep her home with us, and protect her from potential bullies of all ages, but I know that wouldn’t be fair to her. She wants to be out in the world, and deserves to be a part of it. But what if she does have to face bullying? What if the bullying is coming from someone she trusts? What if she can’t ever tell us if she’s being bullied? All of this scares me (I imagine that it scares every parent, whether their child is “different” or not).

It also pisses me off. Because our child is different from others, we have to worry about others bullying, or mistreating her. I’m at least hopeful that Belle will talk enough in her future that she can tell us if something happens.

How do we stop bullying from happening?

The rage in me says that someone bigger, and stronger, should punch bullies in their dumb, bullying faces, but that’s just perpetuating the problem.

I think teaching that it’s okay, and important to speak up about bullying is the key. We truthfully need more tattletales. If a bully realizes that others are constantly willing to stand up against them by informing the proper authoritative figure then maybe they’ll stop. If Belle is nonverbal then I’ll teach her to scream at the top of her lungs until help arrives. Maybe the loud screaming will at least scare the bully away.

I also think it’s extremely important that those who have been entrusted by the “tattletale” (parents, principle, etc.) handle the situation very seriously. We have to stop letting bullies go with a slap on the wrist. Why on earth would they stop if they have no consequences to worry about?

Of course, if we could all learn to be a little more accepting of others’ differences then we would probably see a huge decrease in the amount of bullying that is going on.


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