A friend of mine recently told me a story about her dogs. They're old dogs now and have been together for many many years. When they were young and my friend brought home the second dog to live with the first, the vet warned that there would be showdown sometime in the first few days. She warned it would be nasty, but that my friend should let it happen. This was how the dogs would establish hierarchy. The showdown happened and it was awful - a viscious, scary dog fight. When it was over, one was top dog and one was underdog, for the rest of their lives.
I've been thinking about that story this week as I've heard one friend after another say that already, one month into the school year, their child is being bullied. It seems that the kids are trying to establish their rank and hierarchy too. What a shame.
One of my friends whose son has been relentlessly bullied in the past is facing it all again this year. My friend doesn't know what to do, but she's been getting lots of advice from others - talk to the school, move him to another school. Two of my colleagues have learned their kids have been bullied this week, one verbally, the other physically assaulted in the school yard with staff on watch. It's so frustrating for parents. What should they do? What can they do? And is their child safe at school? That's the bottom line, isn't it? No one wants to drop their child off at school and wonder all day long if he's safe, if he's being hurt, if school staff is paying attention.
Bullying takes such a toll on kids, and their parents. But no matter how many anti-bullying programs are brought into the schools, it persists. It seems to me we have to start raising empathetic, sympathetic, thoughtful and accepting kids long before they get to school. And schools have to create a deep culture of caring and support so that bullying doesn't even start. Possible? I think so. But I'm a glass-half-full kind of person.
We've spoken to many experts about this. I encourage you to have a look and think about your child and your child's school. Is everyone doing everything they can to make school not only safe, but wonderful?
Here's why it matters so much. In this interview, one of the most powerful I've done on bullying, we learned that bullying actually changes the brain of the victims. Some kids end up with post traumatic stress disorder. Here's that discussion.
Download our podast of the interview if you'd rather listen.