Monday, January 26, 2015

"An Open Letter to Kids and Adults About Bullying"

Howdy Friends,

Recently I was at a meeting where a mother was very upset about her son who was the victim of “bullying.” I put the word here in quotes because I despise the word, the action, and the suggestion it gives. In our society today it seems we need to name everything. I heartily disagree with that need. You see every time we name something we get more of it. It instantly becomes a fad, a thing to do, to be part of, and in the case of bullying, it makes those vulnerable have their antenna up, more aware of and sensitive to the act. It weakens them and makes it more difficult to brush off the offense, or perceived offense.
Back to the mother at the meeting, we chatted a bit, she was so distraught at first she could barely function. “It’s been going on for years,” she said with sadness washing her face. Pity, stress and worry consumed her and it showed. Going on for years? Wow. Among other things I told her, in my opinion, the worst thing a parent or guardian can do is to swaddle the youth in pity. Pity can be perceived as a reward, and it becomes addicting, and the child will seek more of it, making him/her more vulnerable, subject to and in a dangerous place at the hands of those who would torment. Pity does absolutely nothing to prepare the child to deal with the real world. Rather it sets them up for a life of low self-esteem, self doubt and too often failure. 

Who am I to give advice on this subject? I lived it, horribly. I was abandon as a kid on a dairy farm. A farm that did not have indoor plumbing, electric or other niceties we take for granted. Before I was abandon I had spent 3 years locked in a room, my own father hated to look at me. You see I was born with several birth defects, misshapen hands, big arms and a humpback. My father and stepmother did not want to “Look at a freak” so they locked me away. I never knew for sure but I believe now authorities got wind of it, so they dumped me off on this farm.

At the farm I usually had two sets of clothes, milked and did other chores in pretty much the same clothes I went to school in. I was called, stinky, big hands, humpback, and other nasty things for a lot of years. I ate alone at lunch because no one wanted to be with a kid who used “ode de barnyard” cologne. So while I’m not “educated” in any way to give advice to you kids and adults, I’ve walked in your shoes.

Today I’m president of “Heartland Horse Heroes” equine assisted therapy center, and one of the programs we conduct there is Michael McMeel’s “Inner City Slickers.” A program for what society labels at-risk youths. Strong in that program is teaching self-respect, trust in themselves and others, respect for others—and “you can do it, and never give up!”

I tell the kids bullying is nothing new, it just has a name now, so it’s in style—in a bad way.

Sadly today kids don’t get enough contact with nature, or they would see how establishing position is actually a part of life. Chickens do it, the phrase “pecking order” comes from them. Puppies and kittens do it, who hasn’t seen balls of fur wrestling for fun, and dominance. Horse do it, think of the phrase “alpha mare.” It happens for kids and adults too, and all through life in play, and work. We need to learn to respect ourselves so we can master it, not let it master us. And pity, while soft, fuzzy and nice feeling, does little other than weaken us.

Another thing about bullies. Remember, bullies are cowards. Honest. That’s why there are always bullies in a pack, or the lead bully always seems to have team mates. They are cowards, can’t do anything on their own so they put like minded cowards on their team and pick out someone they can gang up on for their own pleasure and feeling of self-importance.

Bullies are often jealous of those whom they pick on. That’s why they do it. To try to tear their victim down. They want to build themselves up by stepping on the backs of those who are better than they are...Sometimes being picked on is great praise indeed. Smile and say, “Thank you.”

Today bullying is tough to avoid with so many youngsters growing up in broken homes, few actual role models and heroes. And the dog-gone electronic age. It is more difficult for kids to get away from bullies. Kids, I know social media is a huge part of life now, but if you think you are being picked on, shut it down. Really, leave it. It will only connect you with anxiety. Or find a way to make it so private only your few closest friends can connect. Don’t text or receive texts on your phone. If someone wants to talk to you, make them talk!

Try to remember, you, and only you can define who you are. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE! If there are negative people in your life avoid them as much as possible. Negativity is contagious. You don’t need it! Find a mentor, a role module. Don’t seek out pity or codling. TAKE CHARGE.

One last thing, if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, smile. It will totally disarm them. Don’t let them take the reins of your life from your happy hands!

God Bless & Gitty Up, Dutch Henry