By Nina Lei
Why is bullying considered a “normal” part of childhood? If something that almost all of us can agree is harmful becomes more and more prevalent, shouldn’t that be a sign that it needs to stop, NOT a sign that we shouldn’t do anything about it? There’s no reason why people should consider bullying a normal part of growing up and accept it as a “rite of passage” – there are plenty of other things that happen during the pre-teen and teen years that challenge adolescents and help them to grow into stronger adults. We don’t need to add bullying on top of that.
So the question is, why are we staying complacent? Things won’t change unless we take action to change them.
Last week I had the opportunity to hear Chris Claudio, of Throggs Neck La Famiglia (http://www.tnlafamiglia.org), a non-profit that aims to stop bullying and gang activity, speak about the need to prevent and stop bullying. He was a victim of bullying himself, and attributed the former life he led as a drug lord and gang member to his experiences of being bullied as an adolescent. I was moved by his story and came to see that bullying is about more than teasing another person. It can lead to horrible, life-long consequences, as it did for Mr. Claudio.
As I sat and listened, I thought of the many other victims of bullying and my heart went out to them. Take a moment to really think about the victims of bullying as well as the bullies themselves. Think about the child who feels so incredibly hurt, sad, angry, alone, and all kinds of other negative feelings, that he/she feels the need to end his/her life. Or the child who believes that a solution is to inflict pain on others so that he/she can try to avoid further pain him/herself. Many of these adolescents just want a friend, someone who will help the child know that he/she is not the worthless person that others are making him/her feel like he/she is.
I asked Mr. Claudio, how do you motivate kids to stand up for the victims of bullying? He answered that the culture needs to be changed. The culture needs to be one that says, “WE don’t allow for bullying,” “WE don’t accept that.” There is strength and power in numbers, and there’s evidence that this change in culture is effective to prevent bullying.
So stand up, with everyone you know, to put down bullying.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @nina_mhc14.