I was listening to the radio recently when I heard a commercial about schools that made me sit up and take notice. The commercial was dire and disturbing. Here’s what I heard:
“Today in school I learned a lot. In chemistry I learned that no one likes me.
In English I learned that I’m disgusting. And in physics I learned that nobody loves me.
Today in school I learned that I’m ugly and useless. And in gym, I learned I’m pathetic and a joke.
In history, I learned that I’m trash.
Today in school I learned that I have no friends. In English I learned that I make people sick.
And at lunch I learned that I sit on my own because I smell.
In biology I learned that I’m fat and stupid.
The only thing I didn’t learn in school today is why nobody helps.”
A few words at the end of the commercial revealed that this was a public service announcement about bullying in schools. It encouraged parents to teach their children how to stop it.
If your child is so bullied in school that he is learning he is “a piece of trash,” this is not the time to try to change the culture or the system. This is the time to extricate your child from it. It’s time for an emergency directive, a protective order, a drastic solution, whatever it takes to keep a child safe and sane. Parents shouldn’t fiddle around with a “tweak” or a “try” at such a time. An immediate solution is the only answer.
Bullying is a real problem with real consequences. It affects almost every child to some degree. I had a child who was bullied. I was bullied. My parents and grandparents and great grandparents were probably bullied.
Schools are breeding grounds for bullies because they are places where children are desperately seeking attention, love, and support. As parents, we need to handle bullying at school with critical care. In the beginning stages we can be cautious and creative in our response, allowing our children to carry most of the responsibility for dealing with the bully. But we need to be prepared to escalate our response and level of action to match the severity of the situation, even if we have to yank our children out of school to solve the problem.
Severe bullying is nothing less than an emotional beating. If someone were beating you with a stick, would you wait around to see what happened next? Would you look around to see if any onlookers cared enough to join you in the fight? Would you try to reform the bully? No. You would (and should) run like the wind. Emotional beatings are even more insidious and lasting than physical ones. Bruises fade away, but emotional scars take far longer to heal.
A couple I am close to has been walking with their daughter through a bullying situation at school for the past several years. When parental advice from home proved insufficient to turn the bullying situation around, the mother went to the school and tried to change the system. She even started a bullying club. Good for her. When that still didn’t improve the situation, she took her daughter out of school. Even better.
This is what good parents do. They get involved and they get active. They don’t wait for life to drop a heavy, irreversible blow on their kids. They stay ahead of the curve.
Another beautiful story about how to handle school bullies was recently told on Britain’s Got Talent. Thirteen-year-old Leondre Devries was bullied at school and he rapped about his experience on the show. Check out the first verse of the song he wrote:
“Please help me God, I feel so alone.
I’m just a kid, how can I take it on my own?
I’ve cried so many tears writing this song.
I’ve tried to fit in, where do I belong?
I wake up every day, don’t want to leave my home.
My momma’s asking me why I’m always alone.
Too scared to say, too scared to holler
I’m walking to school with sweat around my collar.
I’m just a kid. I don’t want no stress.
My nerves are bad. My life’s a mess.
The names they call me, they hurt real bad.
I want to tell my mom, She’s having trouble with my dad.
I feel so threat, there’s nowhere to turn.
Come to school, don’t want to fight, I want to learn.
So please Mr. Bully, tell me what I’ve done.
I have no dad. I’m living with my mom.”
Leondre endured four years of bullying, hiding it from his mother for most of that time. But, thankfully, his song didn’t end with the first verse. Because his mother found out about the bullying. That’s when things started to turn around. First, Leondre stood up to the bullies. Then he changed schools. There was no ignoring the situation. Things had gone too far. It was time for action.
At the new school, Leondre is not bullied and he is happy. That’s why his beautiful song with the anti-bulling message ends with this lovely chorus:
I’m hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today.
Take this music and use it. Let it take you away.
And be hopeful, and He’ll make a way
I know it ain’t easy, but that’s OK.
Just be hopeful….
This performance on Britain’s Got Talent brought the judges to tears and inspired Simon Cowell to press the golden buzzer, an action reserved for just one artist each season who the judges feel deserves the right to be catapulted from a lower round directly to the live finale. That finale is this Saturday night and Leondre is a favorite to win. I’ll be rooting for him.
If you want to be inspired and “hopeful for today,” check out Leondre’s original performance here. It’s heartfelt and moving and a testament to the great things that can happen when good parents get involved and are willing to do whatever it takes to help their children.
Until next time…be fearless.