Bullying in School with Tina Meier, How to Help Your Child

 

Bullying in School with Tina Meier, CathyKrafve.com

Tina Meier did not start out to be a nationally known expert on bullying, cyber-bullying, and suicide. Instead, she was a normal mom with the kind of normal life we all experience; busy days, followed by evenings filled with family, kids’s appointments, homework, supper, sleep, start over. Then, one night, Tina discovered her beautiful daughter, Megan, sobbing in bed.

“I could not get her to sleep. She said she wanted to kill herself.”

Bullying in School

“I panicked and took off running,” Tina says, “I ran into my bedroom, grabbed a pillow, went into the bathroom, locked the door and sobbed and screamed into this pillow, thinking, What am I supposed to do? Do I call 911? Do I call her doctor? What do I do?” 

Only in third grade, Megan was already three years into a process that had started with kindergarten: bullying in school.

“I know, looking back, I handled it in the wrong ways. But, I didn’t know. I wasn’t planning on how to deal with this. So, I left my child crying.”

At last, calming herself, Tina returned to comfort Megan. Together, they began a process that no one would want to endure. Now, Tina shares what she’s learned, hoping no other parents ever experience the trauma her family faced. She begins with a good definition of bullying. 

The Definition of Bullying

The definition of bullying includes three essential components. 1) Bullying is an aggressive behavior involving unwanted, negative actions. 2) Bullying involves a pattern of repeated behaviors over time. 3) Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength. Recently, on an episode of Fireside Talk Radio, Tina offered a few ideas about how to proceed, if your child faces bullying in school.

Listen to Your Child.

“Listening and validating are one of the biggest things we as parents can do. We always try to fix it, but we can’t always fix these situations,” she says. Instead we can ask good questions that let our kids know we heard them. She suggests questions like these, Listen, I know this is tough. What can I do; Can I do anything to help you? Do you have any ideas on what way to handle this?

Get Help.

If you think your child may be experiencing bullying in school, please seek help. Tina wants you to know excellent resources are out there.

 

“We try to connect them with supports in their communities,” she says, “We try to provide them with any support or guidance we can so that child ultimately can go to school feeling safe, physically and emotionally.”

Document Everything.

“Documentation is key. When you are talking about physical assault or threats, those things are very scary. Contact the school and let them know.” She explains that the schools are bound by privacy laws. If there’s no documentation of past problems, then the school staff can only deal with the most current issue, without the context of ongoing bullying. Parents can feel the school or district is not doing enough, quickly enough. However, without proper reporting, there is no documentation of previous offenses.

Speak Up

“This is the problem with the issues of bullying. It’s our culture,” she says, “When you have adults around seeing this happen. When they think this is just the way it is; it’s not a big deal. Adults should step in and say, Knock it offStop it. This is not okay.”

Talk to the Other Parents?

Does she recommend talking to the parents of the other child? No. “It turns into this big explosion, even if you’re best friends.” she says, “Ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re going to protect your child.” To confront the other parents puts folks on the defensive. According to Tina, “They tend to go online and get mad, blasting everybody.” 

Report what You See

“Do something as an adult,” she says, “Don’t stand by and stay quiet because you’re not helping our kids or our community.” She adds, there’s a big advantage if an objective adult reports any incidents we witness. 

“Then it’s being reported by someone else, it’s not the kid that’s having to try to report it.” 

Megan’s Story

As she went into middle school, Megan’s parents decided to move her to a whole new school and she was doing well, making friends and having typical, wholesome fun. Unfortunately, even with strict controls governing Megan’s MySpace account, a new subtle problem arose. A seemingly kind boy, Josh Evans, took an interest in becoming friends with Megan on MySpace. After a few months of harmless chatter, the friendship took a dramatic turn, which included harsh cyberbullying. Within a few hours, the situation escalated, ending in Megan’s suicide. (For more of Megan’s story, click here.)

Most astonishing of all, it turned out Josh Evans was a bogus account created by a neighborhood parent, as a prank. 

Using the energy created by her intense grief, Tina saw a need to help others. A year later, in December of 2007, she founded the Megan Meier Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, in memory of her beautiful daughter, only 13-years old when she died. The mission of the foundation is “To Support and Inspire Actions to End Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide.”

I asked Tina about bullying with older kids and she shared great insight, based on over ten years of fighting on the forefront of this issue.

Bullying for High School Kids

“The problem we have is, the older the kids get, they don’t want to report. Their concern is parents go in, overreact, and they (the parents) make the situation worse,” Tina says, “That’s what they’re (the teens are) fearful of; that’s why they don’t come home and tell us.”

Parents of teenagers can watch for these signs: “grades are dropping, their behaviors are changing, not wanting to go to school, under or over eating, not hanging out with friends, or isolating.” (Find many more resources, including legal options, at MeganMeierFoundation.org. On our podcasts, Tina included ideas about when and how to go to law enforcement.)

If parents notice changes in their child’s behavior, they should listen to their child and  validate the child’s feelings. Together, they can discuss ways of responding to bullies. They can seek help from professionals or contact the Megan Meier Foundation for more resources. But, Tina suggests that since documentation is critical, go ahead and report incidents. Even if your child is “begging you not to go to school,” you have options to report issues seriously and factually without being melodramatic. Most of all, get help for your child. 

“It’s absolutely essential that you take them to a pediatrician or primary care doctor.” she says, “Talk to them. Tell them you are concerned because they don’t seem to be themselves. You want to make sure they’re okay.” 

A Mom’s Heart Grieves

Certainly, every mom’s heart must surely grieve about bullying. I guess some folks may think I’m some kind of crazy Christian lady to get so worked up over bullying, but I’ll just say it straight: I consider it evil. Bullying reminds me of a principle from scripture where we choose to either bless or curse other people with our words. You may think I sound harsh, but please understand my heart grieves for the bully, too. Who could spread such foolish misconceptions, except someone tortured by their own lack of self-worth?

Standing Up

After all, God views us all as His children whom He finds delightful. When a person is bullied—being told they are somehow unworthy of respect and admiration—the bully is lying. How do we know it’s a lie? Because the bully speaks what is exactly the opposite of God’s perspective. 

Of course, speaking what is opposite of God’s perspective is a kind of subtle evil that wounds a child’s heart. Bullying as some kind of sick joke is unacceptable. Certainly, bullying can have tragic consequences in the heart of a child. So, it’s crucial to remember that God loves our kiddos even more than we love them as their earthly parents. Surely, we can honor Him by respecting each other.

“We have to be Up-Standers in our communities and step up and help other people when we see injustices happening,” Tina says.

I am so grateful for Tina’s insight. We can all express our love and commitment to all our kids’ best welfare by staying engaged, sensible, and standing up with conviction and compassion.

May I pray for you?

Father in heaven, how we long to be like You! If only we could see each other the way You see us, as Your delightful children. Help us stand up for justice, by standing against bullying. Teach us to see the bully as a person in need of Your love, too. Please fill our hearts with mercy. The mercy we desire to receive, let us pour it out on others. Make us people who understand Your perspective and speak it lovingly to honor You. Strengthen our friend Tina to pass along the understanding she gained through such an excruciating loss. Bless her now, O Lord. We pray it in Jesus’s name. Amen.

We love to hear from you!

How has your family been affected by bullying? What counsel have you passed along to your children to strengthen them in the face of injustice? What truth has God shown you about His love for you?

More Stories and Wisdom to Bless Our Hearts

If you’re a mom, we want to encourage you! Your mom job is important to us, too. Joyfully, we’ve interviewed experts; they’ve shared their stories and wisdom just for you on Fireside Talk Radio: Neita Fran Ward, Sarah Cummings, Benjamin A. Simpson, Whitney Patterson, Chris Legg, Katie Butts, and anything with my lovely and creative daughter, Anna Pierce. 

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