Preventing Tomorrow's Schoolyard Bullies

Has your child come home from school complaining about a schoolyard bully? Have you ever been bullied about your name?

When I was a student in the first grade, I recall another kid asking me what my name was. I can't remember who he was or what his name was, but I do remember after telling him my name was Nicholas, he said to add an "s" on the end. He then repeated the name several times, emphasizing the last 3 letters.

I came home from school that day telling my parents I hated my name. They explained to me the tradition of my name, that I was named after my grandfather and that just because someone bullies you into thinking that you, or your name in this case, is inadequate, it doesn't make it true.

Bullying plagues the schoolyard every day as kids criticize another child's name, the clothes they wear or their physical appearance, but the bullying does not stop there. Bullying has permeated our society. It continues in the supermarket parking lot when someone grabs your parking spot, it happens in the workplace when a superior exceeds their authority and it is disguised in the home when a parent mistakes bullying for discipline.

These adult bullies in our society all came from the schoolyard, and it is incumbent on us as parents, educators and citizens, to teach our children at a young age that bullying should not be tolerated.

Years ago when I was just starting out my career as an attorney, I worked as a law clerk for a Federal Judge. It was a two year appointment and on the last day of the job I came into my office and there was a mysterious present on my desk. I opened it and it was a pair of gold cufflinks!

An hour later, Daisy, the cleaning lady, came into my office and asked, "Did you like my present?" I was shocked. "Daisy," I said, "You shouldn't have done this!" She worked so hard that I hated to see her spend her money on a gift like this for me. She then said, "I gave you this present because you said good morning to me everyday!"

I was bowled over! I couldn't comprehend a world where people would not say "Good Morning" to a kind woman, who always came into my office with a smile and did me a favor by emptying my waste paper basket. Daisy then explained to me that many of the other attorneys in the office did not treat her with respect and almost never said "hello."

While this may not seem like conventional bullying, treating others without respect is one of the worst kinds of bullying because it is often undetected by the bullier. Bullies are often so wrapped up in their own worlds that they cannot comprehend how much it means to someone just to hear a kind gesture from someone else, or simply a "Good morning!"

Kindness is contagious! Without it, how are we to make children realize that bullying is unacceptable? Children must learn to accept others and that although we are all different, we are really all the same. We must teach kids that no matter what their race, ethnicity, physical appearance or name is, they are all kids. If we don't, then the bullies of the schoolyard will grow up to be the bullies of tomorrow. If we do, imagine what a good morning every new day will bring.