David (DJ) Collins works on our marketplace sales team here at Care.com. When this sweet news story broke in Indiana, he wanted to share his response. There’s something to be said here about how today’s children are being raised in response to bullying. What do you think?
"I just like to help others… It’s what my mom taught me."
This is a quote from an Indiana teacher when asked why he so adamantly pursued helping a 510-pound 14-year old boy who kept refusing his offers to exercise together.
It turns out the boy had "given up" on himself after his father passed away four years earlier. As a result he had quit caring about his appearance and his hygiene, which made him a target for school bullies. The teacher forced the boy to admit his issues aloud and urged him to see his own personal value; the same way the teacher saw him. The teacher then paired him with another student – a popular swimmer – who made it a "project" to get this student healthier.
While I read the piece on the teacher – and how this entire school has now rallied around this boy, exercising with him everyday and changing the way he feels about himself – I’m left with three big thoughts:
- What is the overall lesson I’ve taken from my parents?
- Do people realize the individual power they have to make a difference in someone’s life?
- And are today’s teens confronting bullying in an entirely different way than my generation did?
When I was 8, I punched a bully in the nose to protect my best friend. My parents were both proud and annoyed. Fighting clearly wasn’t how they wanted me to handle my problems, but taking a stand for a friend was the person they wanted me to be. I’m now 27-years old and already see a huge difference in how today’s kids are approaching their mean classmates.
But it’s not just the mean kids who we need to look at. It’s also the kids who are being tormented. Occasionally, we might find someone crying for help. I applaud this teacher for not heading straight to the bullies, but going to the child who was really suffering. It’s easy to address the consequences, but it’s far more difficult to attack and rectify the heart of the problem.
Around the same time that this teacher and classmate started creating morning exercise groups for a teen who’d lost hope in himself, a group of 5th grade football players in Bridgewater, MA, started standing up for their waterboy – a Kindergartner with a speech impediment – who was being teased for the way he dressed and spoke. So the football players wore fedoras, blazers and ties – dressing like and supporting their teammate and friend. What’s the most amazing part? They did this without consulting their parents. These 12-year olds acted independently to do a great thing and recognized their role as both protectors and influencers.
How did these kids turn into grownups – rather than looking away or punching a bully out? What made them heroes?
With tragic news of bullying over the past few years, I think we might be seeing a growth and shift in what type of person we call leaders – and the definition of a popular kid. After all, it’s not parents and teachers who prevent bullying – it’s their courageous children taking a stand.
So when I think about the lesson of sticking up for friends that my parents taught me, I am left realizing that I didn’t understand "how." But now I do. Thanks to today’s kids who are teaching us all something about friendship. There’s no longer a need to punch a bully out. Reaching out and befriending the bullied could be even more powerful. If a schoolhouse is a herd mentality, let’s teach our children to be the first to protect others and build them up without feeling the need to tear them down.
What is the most important lesson you hope your child learns from you? And how are you teaching it?