Special Guest Expert: Rosalind Wiseman. Today we are discussing how to talk to kids about treating each other with dignity and respect. What are the cultural messages that our kids receive? Are their differences between how boys deal with their relationships and girls cope with their relationships? How do kids bond and what do betrayals look like? How do we talk to other parents when our child has been an instigator of aggressive or bullying behavior and their child is the target AND how do we talk to the other parents when our child has been on the receiving end of aggressive or bullying behavior from their child. These are complicated questions and relationships- so thank goodness we have the best expert there is to talk about these issues, my friend and colleague, Rosalind Wiseman.
Special Guest: Carrie Goldman
Bullying is a hot topic these days- of course it is. Studies tell us that, more and more, bullying can have a lasting effect on a person’s mental health. Not to mention, we hear tragic stories about children feeling hopeless and helpless when they are being bullied- even some who have turned to hurting themselves or suicide because they don’t see anyway out. As a person who was bullied during my 5th grade year—I can relate to feeling so frustrated and upset and misunderstood and stuck, overwhelmed and targeted while I was being bullied- and I vowed that I would do whatever it took to help young people feel confident in their own skin, speak up when they see something is not right, and help the adults who love kids to know some tips and scripts to be helpful when a child is being bullied. You have heard the podcast with Rosalind Wiseman when we spoke abut creating a culture of dignity among young people- now we have one of my friends and colleagues, Carrie Goldman, on the show, to talk more about bullying, in particular.
I’m stuck. What’s left of me now…nothing stops. I have nobody. I need someone. ?
Amanda Todd, a once, promising happy young Canadian girl committed bullycide on Wednesday after relentless, senseless attacks– physical, emotional and psychological– over several years followed her from town to town.
Her horrible story is hauntingly told in a youtube video with cue cards and shaking hands. What began in seventh grade when, she wrote, “I would go with friends on webcam [to] meet and talk to new people.” A stranger made her feel attractive and convinced her to flash the camera. A mistake that would unravel into years of stalking, black-mailing and bullying, this girl was shamed and made to feel worthless.
Even when moving to place to place to get away from the abuse, the tormenters would find her and continue to cyberbully and physically bully this young woman who was trying her best to find someone who would love her as she is. She spiraled into depression, complicated by intense and crippling anxiety, self hatred, self harm, and private self-bullying (see the connection between bullying, mental health and suicidehere and how to report responsibly on suicide here).
At one point, 50 kids bullied her at one time. A boy had lead Amanda on, told her he liked her, and slept with her only to gang up on her later with his then girlfriend and friends. “Just punch her!” they yelled. The kids filmed it. Her father found her in a ditch later that day. Even then, she didn’t want to press charges and get anyone else into trouble. Her self worth was obliterated. She went home and drank bleach– which landed her in the hospital– and urged on her tormenters to make fun of her that much more– and even urge her to kill herself.
Sadly, that’s exactly what she did. At the end of this video, uploaded just last month, she writes “I have nobody. I need someone.”
I think this is the legacy she leaves– a message to all of us to be the someone these kids need. Studies tell us that a majority of young people don’t feel that they have at least three people to turn to in a time of need or challenge (see more on this in the new Bully book I am proud to have been part of along with Rosalind Wiseman and Michele Borba). As I tell my audiences when I present on bullying;
Please, be one of the three. Because you may actually be the only one. I know it’s hard. I know we’re all busy. I know we have no time. But cries for help don’t wait for a hole in our schedules.
It’s National Anti-bullying month and it’s way past time to make a change and commit to making this situation better for those who are suffering.
Peace be with you, Amanda Todd. I am so infuriated…So saddened by this tragic story and the many others that tell a tale of struggle and loss. How could this continue to go on like this? We must do better for you so it can get better for all.
(Note; My Today Show Health Report Interview on this topic included below)
The internet blew up yesterday with applause for Jennifer Livingston, a TV anchor in Wisconsin, who spoke out about fat hatred and what I call, “body bullying” after receiving a derogatory email from a viewer about her weight.
The viewer’s email read;
“Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Jennifer fired back with a very thoughtful, stern and directed response.
“The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground. And this behavior is learned – it is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail. If you were at home talking about the fat news lady – guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind – not critical and we need to do that by example. So many of you have come to my defense over the past four days.
To my colleagues and friends from today and from years ago…my family, my amazing husband and so many of you out there that I will probably never have the opportunity to meet – I will never be able to thank you enough for you words of support. And for taking a stand against this bully. We are better than that e-mail. We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down.
And I leave you with this… to all the children out there who feel lost…who are struggling with your weight, the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability – even the acne on your face…listen to me right now. Do not let your self worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience that the the cruel words of one…are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”
I was interviewed by the Today Show Health Report about this incident.
Livingston’s move is a step toward civility in a society that thinks a woman’s weight is fair game, said Dr. Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of the book “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.”
“I applaud her for her response,” Silverman said. “It was a very responsible response.”
We’ve become a “fault-finding” society where it’s acceptable to make snarky comments about anyone, but especially those in the public eye, Silverman said.
When Livingston stood up to the mean-spirited viewer, she was helping combat the messages that say it’s OK to judge people based on weight.
“We send the message to our children that they are not good enough, they are not valuable enough, unless they look a certain way,” Silverman said.
While the fat-shaming speaks volumes to the girls and young women today who must constantly hear these messages wherever they go, it wasn’t the direct slams on Livingston’s weight that frustrated her the most.
On the Today Show this morning, Livingston told Savannah Guthrie;
“I can deal with being called fat … with being called obese. It was calling me a bad role model that rubbed me the wrong way, and not only a bad role model for our community, but for young girls, in particular.”
Young girls need to see and hear that they can be and do whatever they dream of in life– that their determination, hard work, smarts and talents will put them in the forefront- no matter what their weight, size, height or overall appearance. We need more women (and men) like Jennifer Livingston who stand up and tell the world that they are worthy just the way they are– and that bullies should not and will not define them. But they especially need to hear that as girls and young women, that they are valuable too– that they set their own path and their own definition of worth. Jennifer Livingston did just that– and for that, I truly applaud her.
Yes, she certainly seems like a role model to me.