Archives for February, 2012
The news from Monday was grim, several students shot in the early hours of a school day. Sadly, it's a headline similar to others we've heard before. However, there are some definite differences about this situation that are catching my eye, mostly because several of them have changed in the last 24 hours. First, TJ (the shooter) was said to be a loner that was targeted by bullies. He has also been attending a school focused on kids with academic or behavioral problems. Later, he was said to be a sweet guy who kept mostly to himself. He did have a few friends and didn't get into any major trouble. Some say his history of bullying had something to do with his choice of victims. Now a headline states that he chose his victims randomly. TJ is described as showing cold silence while he shot his peers in the school. Reports now describe him as very upset, confused, and remorseful.
This is a follow-up to the previous post about bullying and suicide risk in teens. When highlighting that specific area of concern about our teen population, I thought it made sense to have some more detailed information and some solid resources. Normal Moodiness and Support for Depression Since teenage boys and girls are famous for their moodiness, it should come as no surprise that nearly 20% of teens will develop depression before they reach adulthood. Doesn’t it make sense, though? They’re exploring the many joys and hazards of romantic relationships (plus those unruly hormones), are trying to find their way between childhood and adulthood, while going through massive changes in their brain.
I'd like think that with the many highly publicized teen suicides related to bullying in the last few years, society as a whole would really start to make some positive change. But that's not the way things seem to work most of the time. As long as people can get away with being a bully somewhere, it will continue to be a problem in each generation. Being bullied is abuse, plain and simple. The stronger, more manipulative individual singles out the weaker, more vulnerable individual (the target). Instead of using their strength for good, they use it to humiliate and emotionally destroy their target. And more than likely, the weaker individual already feels self conscious or isolated about their situation (thus making them open to being bullied). Without support, this will further isolate and shred whatever sense of self they have. If a targeted individual is bullied long enough, they are may reach a point where they'd just rather quit fighting altogether. If they're never going to win, they may see no other choice but to give up completely on life.
It's so hard to encompass such a difficult story in one blog post. Murder-suicide. Young boys. Very troubled father. Missing mother. Dramatic and frightening death. These are just some of the powerful words that come to mind when reading or hearing about the heartbreaking story of the Powell family. So many issues and questions came to the surface for me when I read the news on Sunday. I drew my breath in as I soaked in the details. As I realized this had been a well-planned outcome (not a spontaneous emotional act), the questions in my mind became more difficult to ask myself.
Recently, I've done a bit of research on preschool bullying. A few years ago when I first began looking into it, I found little to support this idea. However, now the preschool years are considered to be a place where the first warning signs may be seen. I would be hard-pressed to call some aggressive impulsive behaviors true bullying. Bullies must have some level of social perception, an ability to predict a victim's reaction and make adjustments to see if they can be overpowered. I do agree it is possible to see some of the early signs of future bullying such as intentional harm to others, lack of empathy, and striking on weaker individuals. However, it's important to remember that preschoolers in general are starting to understand empathy and the bigger social picture. As a parent, you may have had concerns about a child in your son or daughter's preschool or day care class. Or possibly someone has told you that your young child has been bullying others. While this is obviously concerning, it's important to remember that kids' minds are still quite flexible at this stage of development. They are learning and absorbing so much, and as adults we must really try not to label them too strongly.