Sadly, most if not all of our children will experience bullying at some point in their lives. In other words, it's a problem and it's not going away anytime soon. It's also a problem that disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ children and children of color. While numerous articles have asked parents, teachers, and counselors what can be done about systemic bullying, I think it's beneficial to ask kids what they wish adults would do about bullying, too. Our children shouldn't be forced to come up with the solutions, to be sure, but their insight is undeniable beneficial and important.
I used to be one of those bullied kids. I was the shy, geeky girl with the glasses and frizzy hair that other kids considered to be an easy target. I was the butt of numerous jokes, and often tormented in the cafeteria and during recess for not being "athletic enough" or for being "too weird.” As I got older and came out as bisexual (and now queer), I had girls call me hateful slurs and shout “ew!” from across the halls. I tried to speak out and ask for help, but it was as if none of the adults really cared or understood how bad the bullying really was. As a result, I contemplated suicide often.
I’m one of the lucky ones, though, and I was able to hang on until things got better. But in recent weeks I’ve read so many horror stories about the impact of bullying, including one about a 9-year-old boy who came out as gay and died by suicide days later after he was scrutinized by his peers, and I'm reminded once more just how badly we need to listen to our children, take their opinions seriously, and help them in every way we can. So with that in mind, here's how our kids wish we would help combat bullying:
“Adults need to keep checking in with the bullies and adults in the lunchroom. Adults say, ‘Stop bullying,’ but sometimes I think they don't think something is a big deal, even when it is to me."
“Bullies are good at fooling adults because the real sociopaths know what to say and do to convince gullible grown ups that they didn’t really mean it, or sure are sorry, etc. And since adults are interested in stopping the bullying, they take the bully at his word because it lets them feel like their involvement has worked. So my advice is: believe the victim of bullying. Not the bully or his parents.”
"They should talk to the bully and find out why they're picking on the person."
“An anonymous report-a-bully station at school, or maybe rewarding people for being good.”
“[I hope my parents] will call my teacher and meet with the principal so they know to help during the day. I would try to be nice back to the [bullies] and hope they’d stop being mean and be my friend. All adults should talk to the kids about not bullying, and if it doesn't stop they should meet with the teacher, principal, the kids, and parents, [and they] could all talk and... make the kids give each other high fives.”
“They should just tell the kids to stop being mean.”
“Adults need to follow through more after they talk to a bully. They tell a kid not be a bully,then think it’s over, but really it just happens again.”
"Give them consequences when they [bully]. Then they won't do it because they know there will be consequences."
“Have more people to watch over kids like me.”
Anonymous's mother added: “Something to keep in mind... Not sure about the pediatric stats, but adults with disabilities are more likely to experience bullying and it’s often bullying that is sadistic in nature. I imagine the stats for children are higher.”
"I wish for them to tell all of the bullies in school that it's not nice, and if they get caught they will get in trouble."
If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, and the number for the Crisis Text Line is 741741. If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, call 911.