Books

How To Understand And Tackle Bullying: A Reading List

Written by Sheeba Manish

I’m not the only kid
Who grew up this way
Surrounded by people who used to say
That rhyme about sticks and stones
As if broken bones
Hurt more than the names we got called
And we got called them all
So we grew up believing no one
Would ever fall in love with us
That we’d be lonely forever

Shane Koyczan (Spoken word poet of ‘To this day’)

Shane Koyczan digs deep into the heart of bullying with his poem To This Day.This Canadian spoken word poet narrates instances from his childhood and how deeply they bruised him and the children at the receiving end.

He continues to tell how the taunts and the names given by fellow-children at school changed the self image of those baptised by it. “I got bullied a lot when I was a kid, and because of that I thought for the most part that I din’t really have a childhood – I had to grow up so quick and there was no real enjoyment in that for me.

When we think of bullying at school we only think of children doing it to others. More often than not adults are willing participants in this dark and dangerous game. it is as if by crushing the spirits of others, only can there be joy derived.It was not uncommon to be called shorty, lazy, mean by adults unthinkingly at school. We overheard teachers discussing us as ‘evil’ or ‘arrogant’.

In one instance my dear friend was made to carry a board that said,  “I am a thief ” to all the grades, because she lost her pencils. Why??? Nonsense!! It did happen and I wonder still how she actually went from class to class with the board in hand. This was our world view of adults. Of being accused and being told that we were never good enough. We never spoke of this to our parents. We were grown up enough to handle our problems.We were after all in fourth grade.

We considered incidents such as these normal.Soon we imbibed this and started to do it to others. Some younger, some quieter, some weaker.We became in part those we so hated. We made our hearts strong like steel, incapable of being penetrated.

In retrospect, I realise the far-reaching impact my words have had on people I have bullied and my own low self-esteem on being bullied myself. It is indeed a vicious game that goes round and round.

Shane Koyczan Image credit: shane Koyczan.com

Shane Koyczan
Image credit: shanekoyczan.com

Shane Koyczan has written not a poem but a life lesson that must be seen by every child in schools and adult who thinks being an adult gives them the right to roll over a child. Shane takes his To This Day further with the poem Troll. He so eloquently describes the unleashing of the new wave of bullying that is no longer restricted to school time. The rise in use of the social media to torment is explained in Troll.

Voice is like a firing pin
You spoke in explosions
It isn’t cute
It isn’t funny
You have talked strangers
Into death and laughed
And as each family learns to graft skin
over the wounds you gave them
You hem yourself into the scar
You have coaxed the sober back into bars
Handed out cigars at memorials,
Offered nooses, cliffs and pills to those
who unfortunately found you before they found help.

Shane speaks forcefully about the insidiousness of this culture of hate that rages through the information super highway.He seeks to wake us to the fact that we are not alone under attack. He launches a scathing attack on those who hide behind anonymity to incite and push people into tragedies.

We have a duty, therefore, to be more aware and conscious that we treat each other with more kindness and dignity if we seek to truly make our children live happy lives, and let our wounds not stay raw any longer.

There are some great resources we can as parents turn to, so that we may sensitise our children to bullying and help them.

Mahtangi Subramnaium’s Bullying: The Ultimate Teen Guide (It Happened to Me) features teen voices from different places. The book uncovers why children turn against their peers and how this can be tackled singly and collectively.It also has in its ambit cyber bullying, what makes a bully, stratgies to counter bullies to name a few.

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Another fantastic resource for children on bullying and how to tackle it is Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies & Bossiness and Finding a Better Way. This book is written as a handbook to be used by kids. It has words to use with bullies, smart ways to ignore them, and solid advice on getting an adult’s help and thus helps make school a safer place.

bully 5

What makes a person a bully? What makes them angry and violent towards another? Learn from a bully in Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies & Bystanders (Teen Ink). The book also has stories from children who were bullied, where the bullying was very real and painful, not just a joke. Then there are the bystanders, some of  whom chose to watch rather than intervene. In other cases, they intervened positively. This book tries to answer the ‘why’ from three perspectives.

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“But I’m just teasing.” Not all children see teasing as that; they feel hurt and resentful; Tease Monster: A Book About Teasing Vs. Bullying (Building Relationships). One of a kind is teased by Purple and Green. But is it teasing, or hurtful? Julia Cook’s book is great for 5 to 12-year-olds. Cook, a former teacher, and counselor is aware that bullying behaviours start young and children must be sensitised to be aware they are bullying, not teasing. The book also offers ways in which children can alter their behaviours.

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Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig is the story of Katie who is sent to the school counselor after being caught teasing a classmate. Through the lessons she learns, she realises, the error of her ways and why she was indulging in relational violence. Katie must find a way to win back her friend and learn to be more compassionate.

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Bullying is not the bully’s fault alone. An entire ecosystem that enables bullying is usually in place, not one that enables it, but definitely, not one that reacts strongly to it. This explains the steady stream of sad stories, some ending in great tragedy and death when the bullied can no longer take it. The time to stand by and say children will be children has passed. Parents and caregivers need to take a proactive role in explaining to children why bullying will simply not be accepted.

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