Fighting against lies is something that I do every day. What I mean by this is that helping people to change their negative cognitions about themselves is a daily therapy practice. Most of the negative cognitions such as “I am not good enough” and other lies that people tell themselves started with someone being mentally or verbally mistreated by other humans.
From a spiritual standpoint, we can think of lies as sin. Lies that tell us that we are “less than” as opposed to “beautiful and unique.” Lauren Daigle sings about this in her song “You Say”
“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I am not enough. Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up. Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low? Remind me once again of who I am because I need to know…”
As a marriage and family therapist, I am concerned about how people are mentally and verbally mistreated within their private families and relationships. In addition, lies and mental abuse also happen in our schools. Every year, I have at least some children and families who are responding to school bullying and are being ostracized.
Tomorrow evening, I am attending the Howard County Schools forum on bullying. It is at 6:30 pm at Hammond High School. One of my primary concerns is that even in one of the most affluent and prominent school systems in the United States, there is not enough being done when it comes to bullying.
I have observed that usually the bully/perpetrator does not have to do anything to reconcile with the victim. The child who engaged in an act of physical or verbal violence and his or her parents does not have to listen to or hear how it affected the victim. Did it cause the victim emotional pain or trouble sleeping? Stomach pain and doctor’s visits? Were there academic problems that resulted? How did this impact the child’s family and his or her parents?
In my own experience as a parent and as a family therapist, when children are the victims of bullying the school simply says there will be an investigation, but the parents are not told what the outcome is. The bully does not have to ever have a real relationship with the victim or their family, so the bully can continue to objectify the victim. Within the victim/perpetrator model, the child who engaged in an act of violence does not have to soften and see their victim as a human person with feelings and reactions. The bully can continue to objectify, and the bully’s parents can continue to ignore whatever mental health problems the bully might be having that is causing them to perpetrate.
I want to find out why this has been the current response from the school system and what we can do to change it.
We can do better. It does seem that the school principals are overwhelmed with many problems to handle. So, if there are not enough resources to do better, then perhaps we can get parent volunteers to help.
Learning to respond to relationship complaints and provide repair (i.e. “you hurt me when you hit me or pushed me or called me a terrible name”) is a critical life skill. This critical life skill allows people to more successful as a parent, as a future husband or wife, and in the workplace. Non-defensiveness and providing relationship repair are primary skills that create successful marriages, friendships, families, and businesses!
What if we started requiring children to repair relationships with their classmates after incidents of bullying as part of the investigative outcome along with getting a detention or suspension or whatever else.
What are your concerns about bullying in the schools?
If you email me your questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will take them with me to tomorrow night’s forum to vocalize and find out answers to as many things as I can. By next week, I will write a report of what I have learned and next steps I will be taking as a mental health professional to advocate for best practices in our local schools…
All my heart,
Dr. Stephanie Weiland Knarr