There's been a lot of talk in the news this week about the evils of bullying, and the tragedy of teenagers killing themselves because they were bullied. I've heard people (rightly) decrying the actions of two Rutgers students who secretly videotaped a student having sex and posted the footage online. I've heard discussions of how to stop intolerant people from bullying.
This is an important conversation to have, but not nearly as important as the less-discussed issue: how can we teach our children to handle being bullied?
I was taunted pretty regularly as a kid. I was mocked for being "too smart," for wearing the wrong clothes, for being odd. Boys would draw on the back of my shirt with dandelions, or call to pretend to ask me out and then hang up amid the background laughter of their friends. Girls wouldn't even talk to me. A teacher in high school literally refused to give me the time of day. In college, my "friend" slept with my boyfriend to hurt me, then let it be known that she had a large knife in her room and wasn't afraid to use it (and we all lived on the same hall. Good times...).
But I didn't kill myself. Even though I suffer from clinical depression, I didn't kill myself.
I was raised to believe in myself. I had goals and passions to focus on. I had parents who I knew would listen to me, even if I didn't want to talk to them. I had a handful of friends who appreciated me. I developed a thick skin.
Bullies will always exist, throughout our lives, because some people are just jerks. We can try to educate them, and we may get through to some of them, but we'll never convert them all. Fox News will never lack for job applicants...
Therefore, it is critical that we turn our attention to coping mechanisms. This is especially important for parents of special needs kids, who are easy targets for bullying. We must teach our children from day one that the loudest person in the room isn't always the one who is right. Our kids must grow up knowing they are important and that their lives have value. That the world needs them. That they are loved unconditionally.