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February 15, 2013, Friday

Comments about feeling bullied

A quote which I like to offer to another as a tip when the person is sharing a personal struggle is the one I ended my piece “I feel bullied” (Feb. 14, 2013). Harvey S. Firestone wrote: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” These are wise words for many different types of situations.

Yesterday, I shared a letter from a concerned mom. For those of you who have not read her letter I will share the main points below and give my reply:

Dear Charlotte: “… My child attends a private school ... I became aware that something was wrong. My daughter has had trouble sleeping and loss of appetite. When I asked her why she said her tummy ties itself in knots. After a little investigation I discovered that a couple of her girls in her class have been treating her badly by ignoring her and calling her names. I asked the school director to address this situation. I am an expat and my husband is Turkish...The principal assured me he would look into the situation. ... There are advantages of sending a child to a private school as the facilities and instruction are generally better but parents can be seen as customers. ...I think sometimes administrators are afraid of upsetting the parents. What should I do? From Concerned Mum (İstanbul)

Dear Concerned Mom: It is good that you were able to discover what your daughter’s problem is and that you went to the principal to discuss this. You should monitor the situation and see if the bullying stops. If the bullying continues then you may need to try to talk with the other girls’ parents. It is important to help your daughter understand how to cope in the situation.

Author Jen Green in her book “I Feel Bullied” tells parents to encourage their child to write short poems about real or imaginary situations, addressed to the bully and repeating the phrase “I feel bullied.” For example: “When you make fun of me and call me names, I feel bullied.” “When you push me in the playground, I feel bullied.”

Jen Green also encourages children to act out saying no to a bully and discuss together how a situation might be resolved.

Bullying is demonstrated in different forms of behavior. A Today’s Zaman reader from Scotland sent this comment to me as a reply to the piece on “I feel bullied.” She explains that bullying is also a type of intimidation and that it is just what the bully did to her when she was a teen. Karen writes:

Dear Charlotte: I wanted to reply to your bullying notice. I was bullied at the age of 11 (my last year in primary school). I was often quizzed about different pop stars or who sang what song. The reason was I didn’t listen to the radio much and wasn’t up to date on the latest songs and singers -- so someone thought it was funny to make sure others saw this and realized I was “uncool.” It really affected me for a while. Then I just gave up and started being confident when I answered her, not caring that I didn’t know the answers. Can’t remember, but the issue might have gone to the head teacher. At the time and since it happened I often went back and forth about whether it was bullying or not, but realized that the intent was to make the person look good and me to look bad, it was intimidating -- so I concluded it must be bullying.

Dear Karen: We appreciate you sharing this personal experience. It helps reveal that bullying is not always a physical and aggressive act but can be more subtle. These subtle forms can cause a child to experience depression and have a low self-image. Thank you for your comment.

I have decided that growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was a lot less complicated than nowadays. In many ways my childhood could be described as simple, carefree and just plain good ole fun, with lessons of learning a little responsibility thrown in, like making your bed and hanging up your clothes!

For specific information about Turkey, read the research “The Ratio of Bullying and Victimization among Turkish Elementary School Students and its Relationship to Gender and Grade Level,” conducted in 2009 by Hülya Kartal (Department of Elementary Education, Faculty of Dducation, Uludağ University). It’s a very informative and insightful paper about the situation in Turkey.

More needs to be done to help teachers and parents be aware of children bullying others and those children who are being bullied to have the support and help to know how to deal with the situation.

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