April 16, 2010

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Be aware of danger of children bullying children

Shirley Vogler MeisterNot long ago, my husband, Paul, and I learned that our 10-year-old grandson, who lives in Ohio, was being bullied by a much bigger boy. That isn’t an easy thing for grandparents to hear, and not easy for me to write about either.

Our grandson is a gifted student, and is active in sports and Boy Scouts. When we visit him and his family—usually for special events—we are happy with his interactions with other children. We did not suspect that he was being bullied.

However, I can recall an incident years ago when my husband and I took him and another boy to an indoor ice-skating rink. We watched them from the bleachers. Both boys skated well, but I noticed that our grandson fell nearly every time his friend got close to him. I suspected that the boy was tripping him so I went to the ice level and asked him not to skate so close to my grandson. When the boy continued to push and trip him, we ended their skate time.

I never thought about that again until I recently learned the bully’s name. He is the same boy we took to the ice rink. We also learned that the bully has been quietly antagonizing our grandson since kindergarten. In exchange for not hurting him, the bully demanded collectible cards from our grandson’s collection, which he had purchased with money earned for doing chores at home. I wonder if the bully had responsibilities at home, too.

My daughter went to school authorities, but nothing much was done. The old saying that “boys will be boys” comes to mind, but that is not an excuse.

Nor is it an excuse to have a bully’s parents say that they can’t control their son because they have so many children. I’ve know many exemplary couples with large numbers of well-behaved children who have learned right from wrong from their parents.

Naturally, I pray for our grandson and for those who are helping him cope with this bullying. I have also spoken with friends who are teachers, and learned that many schools have anti-bullying programs for students and parents at the beginning of the school year. I shudder to think of children—both boys and girls—suffering physically or emotionally because they don’t know what to do to stop a bully.

Proper behavior should be taught in homes, but schools need to be responsible, too. Many schools have programs that include law officers and/or therapists, who speak to children and parents. I trust that Catholic schools cover this subject well.

Because of concerns, I did an Internet search and found about a dozen Web sites that deal with the subject of bullying. One of the best is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services at www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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