I thanked a PR rep for the opportunity to review a book on bullying, but I declined, seeing as that's not really an issue for either of my girls right now.
The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized it's an issue for me. And many adults I know.
From the drivers that wouldn't dream of going around the block and think it's better to hold up traffic so they can make their turn to the selfish, noisy "bad apples" that seem to work so hard at ruining your day, some people are just not that easy to be around.
I've heard folks lament plenty about how we parents are messing up our kids and the problems they'll have because of it, but I haven't heard that about what I do think is a very real problem, and that's any policy that includes the words "no tolerance."
Like our war on drugs, I don't think we're getting anywhere on this war on bullies.
Suspending them or removing them from the responsibility of learning to get along in a group is not doing any of us any favors.
To be clear, if someone has physically hurt another, there should absolutely be consequences. But we can't lose sight of the fact that we all have to live with each other eventually.
Ten year olds, fourteen year olds, and even twenty year olds don't have all the resources and tools necessary to cope. Our brains do not stop maturing until we're at least 25, and even then, we still have a lot to learn.
We did have a situation that got out of hand once, and after the school completely fouled it up, I went to our favorite after-school program for help. (Just so you know, it wasn't my child that was the bully, but she was the one who felt ostracized after the school counselor's solution was to tell everyone involved to stay away from each other.)
The after-school director put together a session for all the pre-teen females with therapists from our community program.
The girls separated into groups and talked about what they were each going through. From what I was told about the session, you couldn't really tell the Mean Girls from the Victims in these groups. They were all expressing similar needs: to be heard, to be valued, to be part of the group, and also cherished for their individuality.
Prior to the session, they just all expressed it differently. And, of course, not in a very healthy manner.
After the session, my daughter got sincere apologies from all involved. While they didn't all become best friends after it was over, they knew enough about their similarities to at least give a friendly nod and not give each other a hard time after that.
The next school year went much better for all involved.
There was one girl who wasn't involved in all of this. 2 years later, my child reached out to her to try and at least create a "friendly acquaintance" type of relationship, but the girl would have none of it. My daughter let it go, and wasn't angry or upset. Just a little sad that the girl was still holding onto so many terrible emotions. "Oh, well," she said. "I tried."
I think most bullies don't believe that anyone's genuinely on their side. They need to be heard and understood by someone. My hope is that it's by at least one of their parents, but if not, it's up to the other adults in their life to give that to them.
Because those bullies will grow up. And if we don't want them to become criminals, over-aggressive drivers or otherwise not equipped to work and play well with others, we should be teaching them how to get along in our community.