Bring out the Fangs: A Blog about Bullying

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All week, I have been talking to colleagues and friends about bullying. Bullying is not a new concern, but it is getting more and more visibility in our society, a kind of “in everyone’s face” phenomenon. Maybe because too quickly, too often, we hear of an adolescent who has committed suicide after being the brunt of a vicious cyberspace campaign orchestrated by another student, who characteristically is insecure and aggressive.

Perhaps as parents, many of us are too passive, permissive, and civil. My 23-year-old son reminded me recently that I stopped him from being bullied in elementary school because I contacted the parent of the other child and directed the parent to “fix it.” I don’t remember this well, but I was astonished that he recalled the details. I guess I showed my fangs as a mother, akin to a protective lioness with a cub. I followed my instinct, but I also knew what was happening to my son. I was paying attention. I was fearless. I was determined. I simply would not tolerate anyone bullying my child.

Societal messages powerfully perpetuate beliefs that if you are smart, big, beautiful, or rich, you are entitled to dominate others. I believe parents are responsible for teaching moral reasoning to their children, and mostly by demonstration. (For example, they should not bully their spouses or children.) But even with good intent, this is hard work because we really cannot allow our children to have secret, dualistic lives. It is perfectly normal for youth, as they get older, to become more invested in their peers, pushing off from their family. However, when the peer group attempts to hijack a child and insists on family separation and secrets as the price of acceptance, that’s when the fangs should come out. Children benefit when they are taught not to feel superior to others because of differences, and that it is wrong to bully others. It also is not okay to allow others to bully you, and I think it is our job as parents to ensure that our children understand that. I learned as a child that bullies wilt when there is one-on-one confrontation and no peer support in the audience.

Too many parents do not know what is happening to their children, and now, with the internet, too many children have no safe place at all. This creates desperation. I had two major

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rules for myself as I raised my children to adulthood: I will determine the level of privacy my children have, which was never a lot when they were minors. And no matter how tough the situation, I will ask them about it and work through it with them, because that is the only path to a positive solution. I truly wanted to know how each day went. Kids have parents because they need them, and as the parent, I have the full responsibility for keeping my child safe at all times, physically and psychologically. When anyone forgets that, my fangs come out!

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Name: Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman

About: Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman, Executive Director, is a passionate, internationally recognized and award-winning advocate for children, youth, and their families, who struggle with extreme poverty, abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and disabilities and related trauma. An author and expert in child and family welfare, she believes in the sheer power of “community” as it reinforces unimaginable resilience when it provides the basic support to those in its midst who have need. Dr. Chapman envisions a healthy, happy childhood for each and every child, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or the socio-economic status of their family.

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Founded in 1915 as an orphanage in the District of Columbia, NCCF is a private, nonprofit child and family welfare agency with a commitment to serving poor, disadvantaged, abused, neglected and/or abandoned children, youth, and their families.

Current program services include emergency shelters and transitional housing for homeless families, a high-intensity therapeutic group home, therapeutic and traditional foster care and adoption, independent living for youth transitioning to adulthood, teen parent services, and community-based prevention services that promote academic achievement, parental involvement, economic and vocational stability, and healthy families. Our programs have become social service models, redefining both NCCF’s reputation and the agency’s position in the human service continuum in the Washington Metropolitan Region.

blog-sidebar-aboutUs-logo

Founded in 1915 as an orphanage in the District of Columbia, NCCF is a private, nonprofit child and family welfare agency with a commitment to serving poor, disadvantaged, abused, neglected and/or abandoned children, youth, and their families.

Current program services include emergency shelters and transitional housing for homeless families, a high-intensity therapeutic group home, therapeutic and traditional foster care and adoption, independent living for youth transitioning to adulthood, teen parent services, and community-based prevention services that promote academic achievement, parental involvement, economic and vocational stability, and healthy families. Our programs have become social service models, redefining both NCCF’s reputation and the agency’s position in the human service continuum in the Washington Metropolitan Region.

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