Tag Archives: bullying

Protecting My Child: We Met an Ignorant Bully

Yes, my title is strong. Here is why.

Today we had an unfortunate incident. My significant other has been ill and needed yet another test under sedation. Sometimes we can find a sitter or family member to help out, but today we could not so the children went with us. We packed food, books, games, phones with games, some of our homeschool supplies, and more. I took the children to lunch during the procedure so we would not have to be in the waiting area for an extended amount of time. We even sat in the car and spent time outside before going back in because I am no fool. It gets BORING waiting inside that waiting room. If I get bored, imagine how the kids feel!

After lunch, we went back into the waiting room and sat for perhaps 10-15 minutes. My son, who has sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and other concerns, was out of his seat so I directed him to sit back down so he would be safe. After all, which I explained to him, there is a walkway and if we are up moving around we will get hurt when people walk through. He was headed back to his seat the long way so he could hug a sister first when an employee, who I think was headed to lunch because she had her purse, offered crayons and a coloring page. I thanked her, but explained that he isn’t into that. (Trust me, we try, but he is not a fan of fine motor skills practice so we find other ways to develop his muscle tone. He even has special scissors because cutting is extremely frustrating for him.) So far so good, right? It was kind of her to offer an activity to my child. I appreciated that. This is where the situation gets troublesome. She looked at my four year old child, the kid who used to run away because he was afraid of new people and even family members he knew for years, and she said…

“You wanna come with me? You better behave or I am gonna take you!”

All three children gave her “the eye”, then turned to me. Oh, they knew this was NOT a good choice of words. They were right. I said, nicely actually, “We do not threaten, punish, or shame. Thank you for trying to help, but that is not something we need you to do.” Well, apparently that was a blow to her ego because she said she was not doing any of those things. I explained that we don’t operate our family that way and she was welcome to go on to her lunch break. I thanked her again for the offer to color and for trying to help, then turned back to my kids. She raised her voice and refused to leave us alone. She was in full bully mode! I repeatedly told her to go away. (Yes, I was blunt and stern at this point because she was being irrational and after saying she would take my son, I hope that was only a threat but who knows, I was concerned.) She repeatedly yelled at me, I asked for the supervisor and got the employee’s name. The supervisor hid “on the phone” in the office beside my chair the entire time and never did address the issue before we left to take my ill spouse home.

bully yell A

On one hand, some people have no clue how to behave. On the other hand, how are we supposed to protect our children, especially our children living with special needs, when folks like this pop up in our lives? I have a few suggestions, though I am sure some of you out there have even more ideas. Feel free to email or message me with your ideas. I am happy to credit you if you want them published in this blog post.

First, keep an eye out for your kids or use the buddy system. I know this puts a dark cloud over free ranging it, but sometimes you need eyes on the kids if in a new situation. Second, if someone approaches your child, know when to step in. If your child can handle walking away or saying leave me alone, great. If not, then you or the buddy can do this. Also, you can prepare your children by role playing and discussing what to do if this occurs. Third, educate. If I had a chance today, I would have explained my child’s special needs (even though he was behaving quite well) and asked if the employee had any questions. I know I know. It isn’t your job to educate. Unfortunately, sometimes it may be necessary even when you have no time or energy. I might have explained my experience with children, teaching, special needs, and child development then offered a discount on a service of her choice through my business. Fourth, if you are truly being harassed you may need to get a supervisor, security, or even the police involved. That shouldn’t be a first option, but there are times when we need a helpful hand from a perceived authority figure.

It really sucks when people are rude, mean, or ignorant. It sucks more when the person they are being rude to is your child. No one likes a bully. After the issue today, my child became hyperactive and ran laps around the house which he does not usually do. Climb, yes, run laps, no. My child and I were left with the after effects of the employee’s poor choices.

How you treat people matters. It really does. I guess some people didn’t learn that lesson in childhood. All we can do is prepare our children, do our best in the moment, and protect our children.

Body Shame and the Gym

I recently went to the gym and was having a productive time until I saw this posted on the message wall.

 

I doubt the person who wrote this knew how negative it is. Body shame is ingrained in us from birth by society.

I doubt the person who wrote this knew how negative it is. Body shame is ingrained in us from birth by society.

My good feeling from working out quickly left. I felt agitated and certainly didn’t care to continue leg presses. (Good thing I already did cardio!) I took a picture so I would remember the quote, but chose not to name the location or show the actual picture because it isn’t fair to do so without speaking with the staff at the gym. Besides, I have been to plenty of gyms that have similar “affirmations” or “morale boosts”. The problem is not just one gym or one person’s mindset. The problem is deeply imbedded into our culture. Modern day North Americans tend to hold high those with large chests and thin waists. We look down on cellulite even though skinny folks may have it. We are expected to conform to this idea of beauty at any and all costs.

Who cares about your self-esteem? CONFORM!

Who cares if you have children to raise or a job to do? CONFORM!

I considered letting my children join a gym, if they asked to, once they were old enough. After all, I prefer the gym to the heat of Florida in the summer. I am now rethinking this idea. Gyms have a variety of machines and trainers who help, but some of the members (and perhaps staff) may post body shaming statements. They may not realize what these statements indicate, but the undertone is there.

I am not against healthy choices and exercise. I am round and happy with my body, but would like to feel stronger so I go to the gym and try to stay active with my family. I eat chocolate, but also veggies. It’s okay to be me and it is okay to be you.

It is okay to urge healthy choices.

It is not okay to suggest that you must cover up if you are large. That is body shaming.

If we want less bullying, less suicide, and a healthier population we need to back away from the body shaming. We need to accept everyone as is and encourage without placing a negative possibility to an affirmation or motivating statement. Posting statements like the one I shared above can discourage those who are already feeling inadequate or unhappy.

Try these instead.

Let’s take a walk together.

Teach me how to make your favorite healthy meal, then let’s have dinner together.

What is your goal? You can do it. Here is how.

Show me your favorite exercise, then I will show you my favorite one.

By using teamwork and not sharing judgments, you can create an encouraging environment for exercise and good health without body shaming.

 

The Clay County School District and Bullying

I am going to be very honest here. School staff members are often bullies. This is not a problem in only one school. MANY schools have this issue. Any time you assert your will over another person, you are bullying. Any time you say a person must follow your directions or you will impose a consequence that you dreamt up, you are bullying.

I have observed school staff bully time and again during my teaching career. Many times a child was made to sit and watch all the other children play during recess because that child did not have the time or the focus to finish his or her “work”. I have seen children ignored when having a true emotional crisis. I have seen food withheld, which is illegal and was reported by the way, because a child did not finish “work” in the time frame a teacher allowed. It would cause no harm to let the child take work home to do with parents or to respond with empathy when an emotional crisis occurs. Yet, many teachers and schools punish instead.

I recently heard about another form of bullying by school staff in my home state. The Clay County School District in Florida has an arbitrary dress code because they think students are not responsible enough to dress themselves without rules. The powers that be in Clay County seem to think students won’t be studious if they see certain types of clothing. This is not acceptable because typical students can choose and dress in their clothing without incident. They are also responsible enough to focus even if clothing is “disruptive”.

“But gangs….”, people say. Gang members will find a way to use their signs and colors whether there is a dress code or not. This is true even when students are forced to wear uniforms. “But the boys will be distracted by cleavage, upper thighs, or a stomach showing”, they say. Breasts, as well as the other body parts listed, are not genitalia. Don’t you teach biology to your students?

There is also the pesky problem of assuming boys and men are controlled by their hormones and incapable of self-control. Dress codes force females to take the responsibility for this negative male behavior and have to “cover up”. But wait, not all males do this and they are all capable of rising above thoughts and hormones. Not only are dress codes sexist toward males, they are also sexist toward females. (I haven’t even bothered to discuss the facts that there are intersex people, people who love within the same sex, and people who are transgender. None of these folks are mentioned in dress codes, are they?)

Stop sexualizing females. Yes, I said it. Schools need to STOP SEXUALIZING FEMALES.

The truth is that many schools bully. They “support” anti-bully campaigns, then THEY bully.

I was appalled to hear of the treatment of a young woman who attends Oakleaf High School in Clay County. She was made to wear a shirt with the words “Dress Code Violation” on it. This is a form of abuse. No one has the right to sexualize this young lady’s body. By enforcing an arbitrary dress code and forcing her to wear this shirt, she was being sexualized by school staff. They decided to slut shame her and prove that they think males are incapable of learning because a female is in the room and clothed a certain way. This is bullying and, sadly, proof that we live in a rape culture.

The truth is that when we raise our children with love and empathy, they will not stare at another person’s body all day. They won’t sexualize others without permission. They will, however, have no need for arbitrary rules and bullying. Sadly, adults are a different story. Many adults grew up with adversarial authoritarian models and struggle to understand how to teach empathy and love in a non-coercive environment.

It is time for Clay County to stop the bullying and start educating. I am tempted to send a box full of books, for example Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, so the entire school district can become more educated with regard to the issues at hand. The truth is that I am saddened. My tax dollars help fund this district and THIS is how they treat our future leaders? Should Clay County want to train staff and school board members regarding the matters set forth in this writing, I would be happy to help. You can successfully teach in an environment that does not punish, bully, or slut shame. Parents and educators need to team up and provide a non-adversarial education model so that students can learn without fear and shame.