There’s an important essay over at Mormon Momma on the painful topic of bullying. Alison Moore Smith’s story, and the story of her daughter, should be read by every bishop and youth leader in the Church. And not just religious leaders – there’s a message for teachers in public schools and leaders anywhere working with youth.
It is outrageous how often adult leaders are clueless about the tormenting that one bully can cause, even when it is open and egregious. “Oh, he was just kidding. Just ignore him.” That’s a pathetic way to deal with the abuse and harassment that occur in our halls and classrooms. We cannot tolerate bullying in any of our youth activities or events. We must protect our children from that. Turning a blind eye to the problem is the wrong thing to do.
And once we have our adults trained, watchful, and proactive, we need to train our young people to never go along with bullies, to stand up for those being picked on, to actively resist it and get help when it is occurring.
A bright spot in Alison’s post is how the parents of one bully took responsibility and worked with their daughter to stop that behavior immediately – and it worked. I’ve seen other cases where parents defend the bully – I have run into that many times when I tried to take action about problem behavior – and the problem persists. Parents, wake up: when youth leaders approach you about a bullying problem with one of your children, it’s a critical opportunity to help your child. Don’t run and hide, but work and pray and communicate and get help.
One of my best friends when I was young was constantly mocked and picked on while we were in high school. There was no help, it seemed. I was his friend, but really wish I had done more to defend him. And I wish that a teacher or two would have helped to protect him. He acted like he didn’t care and even seemed to egg everyone on, but I suspect there was a lot more pain going on than anyone realized. His life has been far too painful.