Tag Archives: bullying

Is it Ever OK to Make Fun of a Child?

Picture of a blue sky with fluffy clouds. Caption says "Children are only bullied on a continual basis if the bully's behavior is encouraged by the adults in their life"

Picture of a blue sky with fluffy clouds. Caption says “Children are only bullied on a continual basis if the bully’s behavior is encouraged by the adults in their life”

I’ve blogged about this before, and I will continue to blog about it until those who are “grown-up” get it: Kids bully other kids when their behavior is encouraged by the adults in their life

Several weeks ago “friends” posted a picture on Facebook of a child in a stroller. They were treating it as a people of Wal-Mart style pic with which they made comments that they assumed were funny. I looked at that picture and saw a child who was too large for the stroller leaning back hiding her face. In hiding her face, I saw a child who was overwhelmed by the crowd and noise. (it wasn’t clear if it was a mall or theme park or other place, just that there were other people there) In the stroller I saw a child who was perhaps a runner or who perhaps had mobility issues. When I suggested that perhaps the family couldn’t afford a wheelchair the glib comment came back that if the child needed a wheelchair then the government would have provided one.

Sigh. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where all of our medical needs were met by some benevolent caretaker, where there were no wait lists and no need for extended health care coverage? I bet it would be sunny every day and no one ever went hungry either.

The reality is that even here in Canada, children do not get the supports that they need automatically. And if you can’t comprehend that, just ask any parent of a child with special needs.

I mean it’s lovely and wonderful in your life that you don’t have a child or know anyone with a child who has extra needs. But that does not ever give you the right to make fun of someone else’s child. Ever.

Even if this child was not overwhelmed and was leaning back chatting on a cell phone (as was indicated in one of the comments), even if this child did not have mobility challenges and is not a runner, even if this child is simply too large for the stroller, ANY comments that make fun of this child are bullying. When you make fun of anyone, it is bullying.

As an adult, what kind of example are you setting when you bully a child? You are telling your children, your nieces and nephews, your neighbours, your friend’s children that differences are not ok. That bullying is not only ok but that you support and encourage it.

When you do not allow that kind of behaviour in your home and in your life, when you open a discussion about differences, when you become inclusive rather than exclusive, then and only then will we start to see the end of bullying at school.

Think of it another way, when we make a behaviour socially unacceptable, like we did with smoking. Once it was common to see adults smoking in a car with kids in the backseat. Now we look at that behaviour with disgust. That change was made in less than a generation.

I will leave you with a slight digression, if you don’t mind. It is about how children should handle other children that they just don’t like. A couple of friends and I have discussed this many times in the face of some classroom situations we’ve seen in the last few years. We have unanimously agreed that our children do not need to pretend to like everyone. But they must be polite.

Why can’t adults do that in the workplace and set an example for the children in their lives?

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Just How Hard is it to be Inclusive?

bully meme

Many years ago, when I was in College I had a classmate whom I admired very much. And not in a romantic way at all. He was the first person I had met who was so comfortable in his own skin and identity. On our first day of class, fresh out of high school for him (I of course was *so* mature having been in university prior to this), he showed up with purple hair, beaded necklaces and a shirt that loudly spelled it out for anyone who didn’t get it: “FAG”.

This was in the mid-90’s and up to that point I had not seen much acceptance at the high school level. He clearly had had lots of it, and wasn’t going to back down for anyone.

Why do I bring this up now? Because not everyone accepted him for his differences. In fact we were in the same building as the Law and Security Program which unfortunately lived up to it’s stereotype with a lot of bullying jocks in it. They used to make comments to him and push him around in the halls. One day, he’d had enough and he followed them into their class, stood at the front until he had their attention and then dared them to beat him up right there in the classroom in front of their peers. Of course no one took him up on it. But they also left him alone after that.

I’ve always admired that about him. I only wish I’d been there that day to see what he did and to support him while he did it.

Recently, a video has gone viral of another boy attempting to do the same thing.

I don’t know what’s more sad about this video a) that the kids were laughing at him or b) that he even had to do this in the first place.

Why in 2014 are we still encountering this kind of despicable behaviour? Children are only bullied on a continual basis if the bully’s behaviour is tolerated or encouraged by the adults in their life. When teachers and parents create an environment where ostracizing another student is not acceptable behaviour, then it simply won’t happen. When a blind eye is turned to it we run into situations where children are committing suicide rather than be bullied for another day.

Growing up, we had developmentally challenged children integrated into our gym, art and music classes and they often accompanied us on field trips as well. It was a part of the school experience and we were expected to participate. There was no other option. Never were these children treated as lesser than. I remember bumping into one girl several years later in high school and sitting with her at lunch chatting about her favorite boy band. I often wonder where she is now.

That was in the 70’s and 80’s, so why is it still so hard?

Yet inclusion does happen. While searching links for this post I found this lovely article out of Alberta and in talking to a couple of moms with children with special needs, I heard of a similar story where a way was found to include a wheelchair-bound student.

I wonder then, has inclusion become automatic for physical challenges such as wheelchairs, while neurological differences such as Autism are still in the dark ages for systemic inclusion?

I know it is in our school. Our son has missed out on every field trip this year. Once we chose not to let him go on an out-of-province trip when the promised support (the principal who was to be his “buddy”) backed out a few days before the trip and we knew that the teachers going simply don’t have his best interest at heart, but other times because there was no staff member going who cared to put the effort in to making sure that he was able to successfully participate. Yes this is odd, even for our school, where he has gone on every other field trip ever. But it is also representative of our experience this year. And I know that if we are dealing with it, so are other families. (as I keep hearing when I bump into them at the grocery store and the school yard and out on the street)

Why do we not yet have a system in place that demands inclusion for all children, one that does not tolerate exclusionary or ostracizing behaviour from students, teachers, and other parents? It wouldn’t have to be an iron-clad set of rules, but rather needs to be a culture and environment carefully nurtured and developed by those in charge.

exhausted by the school

Some of you may know that we’ve been having a lot of issues at our school lately. It’s been especially frustrating as we have always taken a team approach to dealing with the IEP and any accommodations.

It finally took a formal complaint about the teachers and the SERT to the board before we saw action.

And it’s still only the very basic of accommodations. And I am exhausted by the battle to get there. So much so that I sent my husband to do the last meeting at the school. I want to find that team spirit again, but the fight has taken it out of me. And I’m not sure I could have sat in the same room with these teachers and been polite. After all it took a formal complaint in their file and some intervention from the board before they would even treat my son with an ounce of respect.

The accommodation that they are doing? Chunking his work down! Not rocket science.

The big plans I had for this year about working on his social skills and group participation? Gone down the tubes. We actually had to say to the school that the gym teacher allows the kids to divide themselves up into groups and they argue over who has to take our son in their group! Really?! How about dividing them up by numbers or alphabetically or any other way that encourages inclusivity and sportsmanship?!

So… the fighting has burnt me out. I have resigned as co-chair of our SCC and will resign from the Health Action Team at the end of this year.

And it’s why I’m a bit behind on posting.

It is March Break though, and my fabulous husband came up with a day by day plan to have fun locally, so I figure that I will re-charge with our kids and have something fresh to blog about.

Reality tv moms actually exist

The holidays have left me brimming with stuff to write about, I mean there’s certainly a ton of new material when you throw in Autism, family gatherings, out-of-town family and a huge ice storm that wrecked havoc on homes and businesses. And I’m sure posts on some of these things will come. But that will be later. Right now I’m interested in a conversation I had yesterday with my daughter.

She is currently dancing as part of the cast in a local production. With about 15 kids between the ages of 6 and 17 in the cast, there are obviously a lot of moms who hang around in the back, helping with costumes, makeup and gossiping.

Two of the moms in particular are aggressively vocal, dominating the conversations and spreading their particular brand of nastiness like a poison around the room. They complain about everything, brag about their sons getting ejected from hockey games for mouthing to the ref, brag about yelling at store clerks while they make unreasonable demands and generally treat their children like crap. Being trapped there as witness to their behaviour makes me feel like I’m trapped in some circle of hell watching a mash up of the worst traits of “Dance Moms”, “Toddlers and Tiaras”, and “Wives of some random rich guys” (Or whatever that last one is called.)

I don’t care for that aggressive, put-people-down style of television and until now, I hadn’t believed that people on those shows really, truly exist.

I, and other moms, choose to ignore most of it, but I hadn’t realized until yesterday just how much little ears were paying attention.

“Mom,” my girl asked, “Have you heard those two moms in the change room?” I sighed, knowing at once whom she was referring to. I described them just to be sure and she said “Ya, how come they are so mean?”

I sighed again and explained that some people feel better by putting others down and treating them like dirt.
“But how does that make them feel better?” Good question. One that I don’t have the answer for.

In fact, talking about these moms felt a lot like talking about bullies at school. Sigh. I know some people never grow up, but how do I explain that to a ten year old who wants everyone to get along?

I find it really sad that people feel the need to live like that. Yes we all have bad days, and sometimes need a few minutes to bitch about it/get it off your chest, but there comes a time when it is time to stop dominating the conversation with your complaints, close your mouth and just listen to someone else.

Just imagine what a wonderful world it would be if all the complainers in your life (especially those you can’t choose to get away from such as family members or other parents at school or dance) would just learn an ounce or two of self-regulation and stop after two minutes? The very air would be easier to breathe and the negative impact on our children would be greatly reduced.

In the end, I told my daughter how I avoided getting sucked into the negativity, and how I ignored most of it. It’s not the most satisfactory answer, as it seems to leave something hanging, but it was the best I had at the time. And it’s not my job to change these women. But is it at least partly my responsibility when their comments are being noticed by my child? Maybe. But I am not good with any confrontation, even if I am in the right, and I am chickening out of even a gentle rebuke. I know I will bump into these women again at future productions and maybe competitions, maybe then I will say something, and then again maybe I won’t. I know I don’t treat others like that, so I know that the example I am setting my children is the one I want them to see and emulate. And that is clearly my job and it’s one I take seriously.