Freak! Fatso! Shrimp! Blockhead! or worse--much, much worse. "Sticks and stones may break our bones," but words can hurt a loooong time, whether delivered in person or electronically.
We are toward the end of No Name-Calling Week, an organized effort to educate about bullying and eradicate it.
My recent research about bullies revealed that bullies can be just about anybody. They come from all walks of life, social strata, and popularity levels. The one thing bullies have in common is that they themselves were bullied.
In the non-fiction book Letters to a Bullied Girl, two sisters started a letter-writing project to help a girl in a neighboring town who was bullied. Among the letters were several by adults who admitted bullying others when they were younger and who apologized for it now that they understood the hurt they'd caused.
The ugly cycle will continue unless we work together to stop it. The U.S. Department of Education is one sponsor in such an effort, launching the new website BullyingInfo.org. See what one official says about it here.
Many people and institutions ignore bullying or fail to take it seriously (it's part of growing up, they didn't mean any harm, etc.), but the news this past year has shown dire effects for not taking action. All it takes to stop bullying is for one person to stand up.
Author, speaker, and educator Barbara Coloroso recounts the story--told to her by an adult--who was called a racial slur by his elementary school teacher and kicked and called names by his peers. One boy, whose name the victim remembers all these years later, stood up to the others, took the victim aside, and played with him, stopping the abuse. Click Coloroso's name for helpful handouts adapted from the work of Dan Olweus, bullying prevention expert whose program has been adopted by many schools.
According to Olweus and Coloroso,the four most power antidotes to bullying are
1) having a strong sense of self,
2) being a friend,
3) having at least one good friend
4) being part of a group.
Be a friend, have a friend, and may any names you call be sweet.
(photo by Heather Katsoulis, http://www.flickr.com/photos/hlkljgk/2487113840/)