The Blue, REPORT-A-BULLY, Paper Does Not Work . . .

. . . Bullies do not stop! Bullies are not always who we expect them to be.  Who do you blame, because Bullies are often Bullied? Kids who do not Bully or are not Bullied keep their mouths shut. They keep their mouth shut maybe because it is easier to fly under the radar.  Learning Tolerance? I am not sure if I buy it. I hope this new anti-bullying movie, BULLY, makes an impact. I really do! I do think  the movie will let kids at least know that they are not alone and that they have someone who will listen. 

The Blue Bully Sheet

Before I get into things let me throw out this DISCLAIMER. Dave and I are far from perfect, especially as parents. I am very aware that my kids are not perfect either. I also can tell you that my sons have been accused by friends, acquaintances, church folk and family of being unkind and mean. When I come to their aid I have been called a liar, ignorant and my personal favorite said by a random mom, “My son would never lie. I feel it in my gut. He is telling me the truth. He did NOT PUNCH Eli in the face. Eli must have done something to him,” The end! I have also been called out on my bad parenting  (a few times) and have been told my kids are hopeless (another story for another day). Not only are Kyle and Eli not always on their best behavior, they are also big kids. They have a lot of energy and do not always make the best choices. One is often referred to as a know-it-all and the other often has a less-than-appropriate sense of humor. If the second was asked, he would probably admit that his less-than appropriate sense of humor has hurt a feeling or many.  Thankfully I have been told by the teachers of the suspected know-it-all that he really does listen and let others speak. Yay for good teachers!

Homemade Ugly Doll, we LOVE you!

Back to the Blue Bully Sheet:

As we walked out of the office, there they were, the blue Report-A-Bully sheets.  The woman walked us right up to that carousel.  The blue sheets were tucked into a slot next to other school papers, sign up sheets for clubs, sports and all kinds of Middle School Information. It only took the very briefest glance for this thought to fill my head, “If I were a middle school kid, there is no way in Hell I would purposely walk over to this carousel, extend my arm and grab one of those Blue Sheets, even if I were being bullied.” I looked around. I wanted to make sure no other kids saw this woman hand my son the blue report-A-Bully sheet. Quickly I grabbed the sheets (she gave us two), folded them, tucked them into my purse, we thanked her and left.  Why did we need one of these sheets? Why don’t they have copies in their office? We only were asking to make an appointment with the counselor.  After Kyle’s illness, adjusting back to school has been tough.

Moments later the three of us sat ordering a late lunch. I had to ask my son about the Blue Bully Sheet. “Oh Mom! They are so stupid. If I fill one out and ANYONE finds out, it will be even worse!   I will just deal. If anyone finds out, they will hate me for being a tattle-tale! Everyone knows about those Blue Sheets.  If they know or suspect you filled one out and their name was mentioned, then they will pick on you even more, especially if they get in trouble.”

Dave piped in, “The Cops have figured the same thing out. That is why you can tip anonymously now.”

“Tip-a-Cop?” I responded.

“No. You can text them now, and they can even respond to ask follow-up questions without knowing who you are.”

Here it is and here is what I have to say before I tell you that I think that all the special hand outs, videos, After School Specials and programs DO NOT WORK and may only perpetuate the problem. Change is not easy.  Kids are clever, there is peer pressure and really, where is Tip-a-Cop for kids?  The problem is so big and where do we start?  How can we get on the same page? One thing I have seen, experienced and is often discussed is that fact that parents do not seem to have the time, or seem to have a really hard time seeing that their same children who get picked on can also be cruel, get the wrong kids in trouble or adjust the truth.  This actually is a big issue. As a parent who has been on both sides of the Bully Equation, it is hard when bullying is excused or my kid is called bad and that’s that. Without common ground and understanding, I see a lot of parents battening down the hatches to help their children make it through the day. “If he won’t stop and  you have to punch him, well then punch him,” or, “Just because she doesn’t ger her way does not mean you are a bully.”  Parents are confused and discouraged too.

As a result, this is the kind of thing I see happening: Out of frustration, you see a parent become the parent who screams loudest (which does work, at least for that family). It is my experience that sure, the parent-who-screams-loudest probably does have a child that has been picked on,  probably picked on more than once and probably does need the situation addressed.  What happens with this particular situation is that the school (for instance) gets stuck in a parent-who-screams-loudest feedback-loop. They see the parent who screams loudest coming to the school door and to avoid the loud screaming, the school will do anything just to get that parent to shut up.  Herein lies  an innate problem. See, the parent-who-screams-loudest takes (sucks) a lot of energy resources, attention and eyes away from the kids who probably need an advocate even more; kids who may not have a parent who has the time to scream.  And then the kids who really are getting tormented are often too afraid to get help because they know there is a lot of super mean and ugly red tape they have to jump through first. And because school administrators are too busy and often listen to the loudest parent, the child who really needs help loses his voice.

I asked my kids about the mean kids and if they ever stop: “Um yeah, they stop for the day they are in trouble and then they start all over again.”

OK. OK. How do I articulate what I am thinking?

We have our roles. Bullies do not stop, do they?  Parents-in-denial do not change. Parents who think their kids are perfect do not change. The cool kids are too worried about being cool to change. The kids in the middle are too worried about being noticed to change and the “real” Bullies, well, we just let them bully, right?  At best, the bully may watch an Anti-Bullying video and change for a second. By the next day, they are back to bullying (or at least that is what I have been told). I do not believe anything works.  I watch the kids who get bullied. I have watched those kids all of my life. I have stood up for the bullied. And when I did, every single time those two boys saw me they called me, “Petunia Pig,” starting from 9th grade until I graduated high school. I am not sure what I did except ask this boy to stop. One day I had it. I did open my mouth (shame him).  That’s right.  We were in Winnie the Pooh Together.  I was cast as Winnie the Pooh (typecasting for sure [wink wink]) and the bully was cast as Eyeore.  He kept picking on everyone. He was so crabby and cruel.  One day, like I said, I had had enough. I paused,  looked right at him and said, “You are just like Eyeore,” and then a few of us laughed. I am sure he did not like it. I am sure he was embarrassed. What I said was not nice.  Yet, I do not think what I said merited being called Petunia Pig for four years, but that is exactly what happened. He was going to break me (shame me too). Every single time I walked up the Senior Steps (yes, we had Senior Steps and you could only sit on them if you were cool or risk facing relentless harassment). Well, every time he saw me, he and his buddy would yell, “Hey, Petunia Pig.”  Guess what? It hurt.  Guess what? I often took another path to class, just to avoid those two boys.  I didn’t even call the other boy anything. I did not know the other boy. It did not matter. That was the price I was going to pay for opening my mouth  when I was 14 years old and asking this boy to stop. I have not stopped sticking up for others, but I must admit there are times when I still have a hard time sticking up for myself. Like some acid flashback, when I want to ask someone to stop, I am transported to those painful moments when I was too afraid, too embarrassed  and where I always feared running into those boys, who called me a pig.

These days we read the books, we all dress our kids right. Often I think the bullies look weirder than the bullied. I do not get it. Maybe it’s this. We all want to fit in. Society tells us wee need to fit in. We are taught it is really important to be cool and or popular.  So when you are outside of the box, somehow society justifies that it is ok to ignore or make fun of you.  How many times have you called someone out because they are different? I know I have.  We are not perfect. We can get better. I have had enough. I think many of us have had enough. Unfortunately enough of us will not open our mouths and ask people to stop. Parents do not want to see that they are part of the problem. We all do not want to see that even when our own kids are tormented that they are not perfect.

And back to those blue bully sheets, seriously, to help the bullied, you ask the kids who already feeling helpless, out of place and singled out under the microscope of the glaring eyes of other kids to grab one of those blue Report-A-Bully sheets, sheets that are prominently displayed for the whole school to see and know? Come on, those sheets are blue? Any kid that sees another kid walking around with a blue sheet in hand knows? Guess what? The blue sheet is a stupid Anti-Bullying-Scarlet-Letter, a blue Scarlet Letter that will only make the bullied feel more of an outcast. Think! Please!  At the very very least, there needs to be a private, more discreet method of getting help. There has got to be a better way to help those who are being hurt!

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12 thoughts on “The Blue, REPORT-A-BULLY, Paper Does Not Work . . .

  1. Oh wow this is a huge debate. I was also bullied relentlessly from grade school through high school. It made me who I am today; scarred, but tougher! The cruelness of children and adults is flabbergasting. I think it is partly societal and partly cultural. I also I think personal morality plays a big part as well. The biggest problem I think is, we, as people (ego) don’t want to look at our own faults and flaws. We do not want work on them. It’s much easier to point a finger and blame someone else or scream or bully as a coping mechanism to get Through that uncomfortable situation or time in life. I think it behooves all of us to look inside and be honest and change who we can. ME!

  2. All I can say is wow. I cant believe that the paper was blue! Bulling is everywhere and unfortunately i know that my children have been unkind to others. Trying to discipline this behavior is difficult. I constantly remind them to treat other as you would like to be treated. I read an article once about a 1st grade teacher who every year has all of her children take a piece of clean paper and crumple it up into a ball and squish it up for 5 minutes (representing somone being a bully) then the students take that paper and smooth it out. The teacher then points out that the creases remain in the tattered paper …. the results of being bullied reamin like scars. I found it very interesting.

  3. Marianne, yes, this is a HUGE debate! Thank you for weighing in!

    Here is another thought: Bottom line I feel like we, as parents, have a job to do. Self-reflection is key. There are times to advocate, times to pull back and times to teach. I think personally one of my issues is all the parents who clog the airways. I like what you said, we are not perfect and we need to look at ourselves. There seems to be the bulk of parents which consist of open-minded, self-reflective (for the most part), often willing to blame their own kid instead of others and parents who are willing to listen. This group of parents tends to have more empathy and perspective (responsible not victim). I see these parents speaking up and I see these parents often disappointed with the outcome. What to do? We are open-minded and willing to see yet the people who are supposed to help our kids do not have the bandwidth to help so they don’t. Is it because we aren’t screaming loud enough?

    Then there are the parents who scream the loudest. Their kids are never wrong and it is always everyone else’s fault. You often hear these same parents (victims) talking about bullying and how their kids are have to deal with the rest of us. They always let us all know how open minded they are. “Thou doth protest too much,” I say. I think because they scream the loudest, school systems begin to believe all parents are like this. These parents are breaking the system. And in a really weird way I think these parents and their children are becoming a new type of bully: The Victim Bully!

    Then there are the parents who don’t care, don’t know what to do or don’t know how to help. The kids of these parents need us and need a voice. Like you said, we are often too busy blaming others instead of seeing the real issue that is in front of us.

    Thank you! I can do better.

    There are kids who need to speak up and really do not have a voice. They may be kids that bully themselves yet deserve the space to be heard.

  4. Christina, Thank you!

    And about the blue sheet, I know, right? Seriously! Thank you for your loving and kind words. Thank you for your honesty. Like I said, I have not been perfect either, nor have my kids. I think the issues is more complicated and is not black and white. I LOVE your story about the toilet paper. I think every single class everywhere could use that example at the beginning of every single school year!

    I also appreciate your honesty as a parent. It is hard to discipline this behavior. How do you? Kids want to fit in so desperately? They get attention for every single thing they do. I even remember knowing that if I talked to certain people other people would stop talking to me. So weird! Thank you!

  5. Such a complicated topic isn’t it! I can remember one important day for me in 2nd grade when I had been bullied and was complaining to my mom. I went on and on about how mean the kid was. But when I said he was a terrible person my mom stopped me. She said I didnt and couldn’t know what his life out of school was. That I was lucky because I had parents who loved me and loved each other and sometimes kids bring their unhappiness to school with them. I got the sense that she knew something I didn’t but wasn’t going to tell me. I think both kids in the bully equation are often in need of help.

  6. Jen, Thank you for weighing in. I agree. It is such a complicated topic/issue. You are lucky you have parents who had perspective. It is funny I am finding even with an open mind and perspective, there are always two sides. I like that you mentioned both of them. Again, it is not black and white. I realize now that when I was a kid and I was doing things like trying to be funny to help someone feel included, I actually hurt their feelings. Yes, most of the time I think kids know when they are being mean, but not always.

    I know when Kyle knows all the answers, he feels excited and has a hard time seeing that his behavior makes others feel inadequate. It is perspective. I tend to go back to thoughts like these, “Why can’t we all get along? Can we agree to disagree? There is enough space on this planet for all of us.”

    Interestingly enough I know many parents of bullies who also love their child, love each other and encourage their children to do what’s right. I know plenty of families, who have lots of love, open minds and good parenting. Somehow, they still have to deal with things like boys who complain every single time they have to go to swim team, mean children, teenage pregnancies, drug issues or eating disorders. Even good love and parenting can’t prevent everything. I can tell you are grateful and know that you know that you were really lucky!

  7. There are lots of good comments here! I especially like your comment about even good parenting can’t prevent everything. I’m heartened to see people advocating for the other kid as much as they advocate for their own kid.

    The blue paper may seem lame, but it is a sign that someone is trying to solve a problem. It’s an opportunity for the community to work towards solutions that work. It’s never going to be easy for kids to call out a bully.

    Thanks for the discussion, Beth.

  8. Wow…great topic and lots of great feedback. I LOVE the teacher’s idea to crumble up a piece of paper at the beginning of the school year. It is so true.

    Bullying went on when I was young and still does today. Is there more today? Or are we more aware of it? Are kids meaner now? I don’t know the answers to these questions! I just clicked over to my son’s school website to check something. There is a online report form that goes directly to the administrators. You fill in as much info as you wish and you can choose to remain anonymous. I’m thinking this is a step-up from the blue sheets?!

    Thankfully we have not had to deal with bullying in our household, but the thought of it scares the crap out of me. There’s that hazy border between teasing and bullying. I was teased about my last name (maiden) for YEARS by a kid from elementary school all the way through high school. Ironically his last name was Pigg and boy, he was teased too. I would not say that I was bullied though. Note to self: ask my mom what parents thought about bullying back in the 70s/80s.

  9. This made me happy that I teach 3rd grade. Yes there is most definitely bullying in 3rd grade but they care more about what the teacher thinks than their peers so it’s easier to pull bullies aside and talk to them. The only semi-solution I have found in my very short time of teaching is to have a community circle time every week where we talk about how to deal with situations in a peaceful way. We literally practice a script of what to say if someone starts doing something unwanted and when it goes far enough to talk to a teacher. I do see differences, but it has taken all year. I am sad that all of this practice will probably be forgotten during the summer and when it isn’t constantly being talked about. Not to mention they still have to get through dreaded middle school where it seems like everyone acts like a bully because of low self esteems/ other situations.

  10. RDB, Thanks for your thoughts and thank you for being part of the discussion. Thank you for appreciating my perspective. Yes, it is very cool to see others advocating for their own kids and other children. Yay!

    OK, I hear you on the blue paper. I still think it is lame and obtrusive. That being said, I will concede that yes, it is a start. I also agree that the blue sheet gives us an opportunity to make things better. Amen to you!

  11. Andrea, great thoughts and again great addition to the discussion. You are all giving me a lot to think about. I don’t know if bullying is worse or that we are more aware. Wait. I thought about it for two more seconds and yes, I think bullying is worse and this is why. I see a shift in what a child can do to defend him or herself before 911and before all the publicized and horrible school shootings. When I was a kid you would not get kicked out of school (necessarily) if you fought back (even physically). Like I said, with all the school shootings, 911 and our heightened fear, kids (boys) can’t be boys. When we were kids boys were allowed to work it out and move on. Now kids (especially boys) have to go against their nature, jump through hoops, talk it through, talk it through again, move through red tape until they do not understand what the problem was in the first place. The down side of all of this fear and inability to “work it out”, I see children becoming more sophisticated in their language and more sneaky. And because of this, I do think bullying, at least verbal bullying is worse. Kids can’t fight back so the bully is given a lot of power. I don’t avocate violence, but when kids don’t feel empowered or like they have the space to defend themselves, then we give the bully power. Do I make sense?

    Andrea, I love how you process and it is interesting to look back. I don’t know if you would call what those boys did to as bullying, retaliation or just harassment. Looking back I wish I would have punched them (wink wink).

  12. Amy, I am glad this post made you happy that you teach 3rd grade. Your kids are lucky to have you. I love that you have a community circle where you give the kids a space to talk. Way to go. As a parent, every little bit counts and I appreciate teachers like you who have an open heart and are modeling healthy communication. Thank you! I really love that you give them the words and they practice. I promise that this experience will make a difference for them. I wish more teachers were like you!

    Again, every little piece, every little bit that a child can take with them to help them feel empowered will help them weather the storms, especially middle school. Thank you Amy! You rock!

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