Bullying comes in so many different forms, from outright cruelty on elementary school playgrounds and high school gyms to barely perceptible social snubs.
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But whatever form it takes, it leaves its mark on the victim as well as the perpetrator. After all, if mistreating others early in life, even subtly so, is witnessed and silently tolerated – well, isn’t that just an implicit endorsement of similar behavior in the future?
Leslie Blanchard recently reminisced in her blog, A Ginger Snapped, about the day her “charismatic, sassy, leggy, blonde, dance-y, athletic girl”returned from her private Catholic school one day, complaining about a classmate named Bethany who was trying to latch on to her and her friends.
“’She’s following me around on the playground and sitting by me at lunch!’ she quipped, as if that would sum things right up and get me squarely on her side of the matter.”
While many of Leslie’s peers would maintain a “hands off”approach to social matters in their children’s lives – while simultaneously micro-managing every other aspect – this was not a situation Leslie could tolerate.
“It is true (confirmed to me by Bethany’s mom and teachers), that there was no overt unkindness or name-calling, etc., just rejection; a complete lack of interest in someone they wrongly concluded had nothing to offer them,â€ she wrote. “After experiencing childhood myself and raising five of my own, I’ve been on every side of the bullying social dynamic, and I am convinced this is where it begins. A casual assessment and quick dismissal of an outsider.â€
“Of course it’s tempting to ‘curry favor’ and ‘suck-up’ to the individual a rung of two above you on the Social Ladder, but every single human being deserves our attention and utmost respect,â€ she continued. “In spite of this, we have to constantly remind our children and ourselves that everyone can bring unexpected and unanticipated value to our lives. But we have to let them.â€
Rather than brushing the episode aside, Leslie viewed it as an opportunity to teach her daughter a valuable lesson and instead assigned her some “social homeworkâ€: Come home from school the following day and report on three interesting things about Bethany that she hadn’t known earlier.
Predictably, when she picked up her daughter from school the next day, she began by griping about her mother interfering in her social life. “And then,â€ Leslie said, “she told me three cool things about Bethany that she didn’t previously know.â€
That incident happened when both girls were in the 4th grade; now in their 20s, the two young women remain in touch to this day through social media.
“But, most importantly, she learned that, while I may not be overly-interested in what she gets on her Science Fair project, couldn’t care less if she’s Lactose Intolerant or whether her long blonde hair is snarled, she’s going to treat people right.â€
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