Putting bullying in the hands of kids

Sunday, December 3, 2017

On Thursday I was afforded the opportunity to join third-grade students at Fairview Elementary School for an afternoon of reading. This is the third year I have gladly accepted the invitation from librarian Lynette Gross to spend the final hours of the school day engaging with the young people.

I read to six different classes using the same book I always use about a rabbit named Wigglebottom who finds himself the victim of bullying at the hands of the Snorton twins.

First of all with a last name like Wigglebottom there is a great deal of interactive fun to be had and secondly its never too early nor is it ever too often to tackle the bullying topic.

At first our main character ignores the little voice in his head telling him to talk to a teacher and instead makes multiple attempts to elude the bullies or win them over. When those attempts fail, he contemplates just giving in and providing the Snortons what they want. Eventually Wigglebottom follows the advice of his conscience and the situation is resolved.

The third-graders really get it. After reading the book, I asked some questions about the message of the book and they all got it.

Then the conversation continues and I ask them what they, themselves, can do personally to help put an end to the culture of bullying in their class or sphere of influence. I told them the biggest thing they can do is refuse to participate. Most bullies are seeking a response from their intended victim or the people watching. Don't participate. Don't laugh. As a matter of fact, let the bully know that in this school, in this class, we don't let our friends and classmates feel attacked. Everyone is treated as a friend with respect and our actions show it. And of course if someone is being bullied and doesn't have the ability to end it themselves, get an adult involved.

As I've shared before, the bullying culture has been around for generations. Legislation and school rules may reduce it somewhat but the only thing that will ever change the culture of bullying is the young people themselves. They must stand together and make it clear that there is no place for behavior designed to tear down rather than build up. And it has to be modeled by the adults for the youth to emulate.

Otherwise we will continue to be a society which looks around in shock every time an incident where bullying is involved leads to dire consequences.