Life Lessons: Learning to stand up for yourself



In a perfect world we would have only friends and everyone would behave and get along with each other but this is fantasy because unfortunately we don’t all get along with each other and we aren’t always friends with one another. The sad reality is that for most of us as kids we have experienced some form of teasing and name calling and even some roughing up at the hands of a bully. I remember as a kid being shy and quiet so I didn’t really have too many friends but I was fortunate in not having too many experiences of being teased or treated badly.

I got along with kids in school in my youth and pretty much kept to myself. I know that growing up can at times have moments of awkwardness for most of us and we have to rise above it and be strong. We may be sensitive and not take well to criticism or teasing so we have to have a good disposition and not be easily intimidated. We have to learn to stand up for our self and to not be easily hurt by others.

In raising a special needs child I know how hurt they can be by the actions and words of other kids. I don’t believe kids really mean to hurt others but they can at times be pretty cruel in what they say or do. I know my son has felt hurt and at times asked not to go on the school bus because he was being teased and wanted to avoid the situation. As a parent you know that you are sometimes dealing with sensitive matters and you have to respect your child’s feelings and listen to what they have to say. In a case like that you try to have your child talk it out and express what they are feeling. You also need to bring the matter to the attention of the school to prevent further incidents from occurring.

Kids who are different for whatever reasons do seem to fall prey to teasing and name calling and that is also true of kids on the autistic spectrum. Autistic children tend to isolate themselves and react to things with a heightened awareness and can at times behave in unorthodox ways because they see and experience things differently from most of us. It is very important that we teach our kids that they are special and they should never allow themselves to be ridiculed or treated unfairly or bullied. They need to know how to react calmly and to have a tough shell to shield them from the teasing.

In most cases the teasing is not that damaging and it is a normal part of growing up through our childhood but in some cases it has proved very damaging to some children who were victims of bullying and in the most severe of cases has led to suicide which is incomprehensible. The tragedy in these instances is that some of these children who became victims felt no way to escape the bullying and they were the subject of tormenting regularly and they felt trapped and the only way out for them was suicide. It seems hard to imagine that the pain inflicted on these poor kids was that severe and it is something that has to be addressed and prevented. Schools have to step in to prevent bullying and hold the aggressors responsible for their actions.

I am dedicating this entry of my blog to the memory of Phoebe Prince, a 15 year old Irish girl who had recently emigrated to this country from Ireland with her family having gone to school in Massachusetts where she was the subject of intense bullying by a group of both male and female students which ultimately led to Phoebe’s actions of committing suicide on January 14th to escape the merciless tormenting inflicted by these insensitive students. This is a heartbreaking story on how mean kids can really affect another child to the extent that they feel so threatened and have no way out other than suicide. I am heartbroken that this occurs and has happened many times. It is alarming and it is quite disturbing and very troubling that taunts can get to this level of severity. This is why it is so important that we listen to our children when they say they are being teased and feel uncomfortable about it. We should never take it lightly or dismiss it when we hear stories like poor Phoebe’s. I pray for Phoebe to be at peace and for her family to find strength to honor the memory of their beautiful daughter who did not deserve such a tragic fate.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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