It is normal for us to feel that no child should ever proceed their parent in death. Whether the cause is illness or senseless violence the pain is still severe. It was heart-wrenching when I heard Sirdeaner Walker describe finding her 11-year-old son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hanging from an extension cord in his bedroom last Monday night after he had endured another day of taunting at New Leadership Charter School, where he was a sixth-grader, she said.
I don’t even think I knew what suicide was at 11-years old. He would have turned 12 on the 17th. She described her son as a happy child who had recently come under a great deal of stress due to enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.
In an unrelated incident another 11-year-old boy, Jaheem Herrera, in Atlanta suffered similar abuse. His younger sister found him hanging in his bedroom last Thursday. Norman Keene, the fifth-grader’s stepfather, said the family knew the boy was a target, but until his death, they didn’t understand the extent of his suffering. “They called him gay and a snitch,” he stated.
Victims of bullies become anxious, insecure and cautious, suffer low self-esteem and rarely defend themselves or retaliate. Often they feel isolated and withdrawn. The most common reason cited by youth for why someone is targeted for bullying is because the person does not fit in.
Even if your child isn’t a victim, it can be beneficial to have a discussion about this topic. Who knows? Your child might become a protector of someone being bullied, or he may even decide to show compassion to a bully who feels guilty about how he’s treating others.
Most importantly, we should start at home by modeling Christlike attributes and behaviors before them. This foundation will establish both accountability and respect for others.
Educators’ advice to parents on how to combat bullying:
> Talk with and listen to your kids —- every day. Engage in frequent conversations about their social lives.
> Spend time at school and recess. Research shows that 67 percent of bullying happens when adults are not present.
> Be a good example of kindness and leadership. Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you.
> Learn the signs. Most children don’t tell anyone (especially adults) that they’ve been bullied. Learn to recognize warning signs such as complaints of headaches or stomachaches, or avoiding recess or school activities.
> Create healthy anti-bullying habits early. Coach your children what not to do —- hitting, pushing, teasing.
> Help your child’s school deal with bullying effectively. Zero-tolerance policies don’t work. Ongoing educational programs that help create a healthy social climate do.
More Recommended Resources:
|No More Bullies: For Those Who Wound and Are Wounded
By Frank Peretti
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