Bullying happens to everyone…Regardless of how old you are, what you do, what you say, what you look like, and how “popular” you are. It has happened to be numerous times in my life. When I was in 8th grade, and even today. Today bullying often occurs online. Back in the day it occurred in person or on answering machines (yes real machines in your house- not voicemail). Both cut just as deep and always seem to get you on the Achilles heel. The video is about bullying today, the text below is about bullying when I was a kid… the same type of bullying that continues to occur on playgrounds all over the country.
If you’re being bullied, talk to someone about it.
If you’re a bully, think about the long-term ramifications and insecurities that you are injecting into people. But beyond that, think about what you are saying. You might not even mean to be mean, you just feel like you’re expressing your opinion- which you have every right to do. But is it necessary, is it constructive, or are you just being mean?
At 34 years old, I can look back and say that the 8th grade was the worst year of my life. It was in the 8th grade that I had to walk around holding my waist band to make sure that I wasn’t “pants’d”- having my pants pulled down while walking across the school yard. I made sure that I wasn’t alone when walking anywhere for fear of being “trashed”- being thrown in the trash can. I carried important books and anything private in my backpack at all times in fear of my locker being vandalized, its innards strewn throughout the halls. I didn’t go out with friends on weekends- really because I didn’t have any. And I never told my parents what was going on, but made excuses like “I don’t feel well” or “I’m tired” when they wanted to take me to the movies or even shopping. To this day, when someone hangs up on me when I pick up the phone I am sure it’s a “prank call” and I have flashbacks to back then. Yes, those playground pranks have long-term and enduring affects.
Bullying was and still is a major problem for millions of young kids. The kids who are often targeted are those who appear “different” in some way- super skinny, late bloomer (like I was), early bloomer, wears glasses, or is overweight. According to MayoClinic.com, obese children are at greater risk for bullying, as well as depression, asthma and even learning disabilities.
Exercise and Athletics Can Help
Not surprisingly, it’s often the overweight kids who don’t exercise, don’t participate in the group PE activities- the same kids who are often bullied (not that only overweight children are bullied). They prefer to skip the sports, maybe calling them “stupid” or making excuses to get out of them, because exercising in front of other kids can be humiliating, even just wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt can be embarrassing. In fact, according to a study at the University of Florida, bullying is a major reason why overweight children choose not to exercise. But avoiding the exercise of course isn’t the answer either. Exercise and being part of a sports team can help stop the cycle of bullying by:
Increase a child’s self esteem
Boost their ego
Make them feel good at something
Have them feel like they are “part of a group”
Improve social skills
Strengthen the mind and body
Give them someone to look up to like their coach or older kids on the team
A recent Dateline NBC piece, however, showed that the coach’s attitude plays an integral role in bullying on sports teams. In the case studies, the coach played a role by:
-When the coach ignored bullying all together, the bullying occurred behind his back.
-When the coach put bad players down (a form of bullying in itself) in front of the team, the bullying occurred in front of and behind the coach’s back.
-When the coach was proactive and addressed bullying before it happened, making a statement to the team that bullying and putting others down is not permitted, the bullying was less likely to occur.
The Parent’s Role
Parent’s are also role models when it comes to athletics. Your child (whether they admit it or not) looks up to you and your attitude about exercise and weight loss will have an effect on your child’s interest in athletics and exercise as well as their attitude towards weight loss and health. While genetics does play a role, it’s not just genetics. It’s often environment. Obese parents tend to have overweight children because of the food choices available in the home, family activities (watching TV vs going on a hike or playing Frisbee), and attitude in general. Be a role model parent and be an example that fitness is healthy. Competition is fine if it doesn’t teeter into the side of- yes, bullying. Games like dodge ball- elimination games- can make kids with lower self-esteem even more self-conscious and bullied. Be aware of your child’s abilities, likes, and interests. Does your child prefer group sports like baseball and volleyball or one-on-one activities like tennis and bicycling.
If your child is big into TV or videogames, introduce them to fitness video games for wii (like Golds Gym Dance Workout)or xbox (like Your Shape Fitness Evolved). Get the whole family involved and encourage health at home. It’s the first step to health at school. Exercise might not stop your child from being bullied, but it can help.