In 2010 I reached out to a mom whom I had never met, but I knew her story through the blogosphere. Her young daughter Katie was being bullied in her first grade class for liking Star Wars. Like thousands of other people I reached out to little Katie’s family, and began chatting with Katie’s mom Carrie over email. I sent Katie and her little sisters some girl-power Redefine Girly tees from the Pigtail Pals shop, the girls sent me a thank you card with a robot on it and some awesome drawings, and the rest is history.
Carrie Goldman and I became fast friends, mostly because we have kids the same age and we are navigating the world as parent activists/bloggers who are trying to create change via education on social media. She is also, in a word, awesome. Her whole family is.
I was thrilled last year when Carrie told me about her book deal, and honored when she interviewed me for the book. Her new book, “Bullied” comes from a place of passion. You feel it on the pages, because you can feel Carrie’s genuine concern that we change. You feel Carrie’s devotion to teaching us to change the way we look at bullying, its victims, and the bystanders. Chapters look at components like: gender and not conforming to it, physical appearance, GLTB kids, sexualization, gendered marketing, social and emotional learning, restorative justice, and creating family environments that create neither bullies nor victims. Carrie pulls in experts to give words of wisdom between the candid stories she shares from other families dealing with the issue that worries so many parents: Will my child be bullied?
In “Bullied”, Carrie calls on parents, educators and schools, communities, retailers, celebrities, and media to examine our own stereotypes and embrace our joint responsibility for creating a culture of acceptance and respect. This message greatly resonated with me, as I have experienced bullying as a victim when I was younger and as a parent. This past year in kindergarten a boy in my daughter’s class decided to single out her and little Benny. He terrorized them for months on the playground. In the beginning, I tried to let the kids navigate the friendship and solve their own problems, but when the problems became systematic and targeted, I would have none of it. Playground spats turned into violence against my children, and at one point the child told my daughter he would kill her if she didn’t become his girlfriend. That day after school, Amelia ran out the doors and onto the playground, threw her bag on the snow, turned to her bully coming after her, and with tears streaming down her face she screamed in a mighty voice that he had no right to threaten her or kill her, that he was a bully, and that if he went after her little brother that afternoon, she’d hurt him. All of the moms nearby immediately intervened, and the next morning I was cussed out by his mother on the playground. My head was kind of swirling, because I had no idea how to really handle it. I knew the steps to take, but I had to talk Amelia down from her “heart startles” from this boy’s eruptions and assure her she was safe at school. She had nightmares, and her little brother was equally terrified of this kid. We tried approaching the teacher a few times, and I met with the principal, but ultimately the child was doing most of the bullying before and after school, so there wasn’t much they could do. This particular child was constantly in trouble, but sadly, he wasn’t the teachers’ biggest problem student and this little guy fell through the cracks. I wanted to bop him on the head and hug him at the same time.
It was difficult to help my children navigate their feelings and rightful anger about the situation, while at the same time teaching them empathy and understanding and dealing with adversity. First grade begins in just under a month, and after reading “Bullied”, I feel much more prepared to handle an issue should it arise this year. “Bullied” is full of proven strategies and concrete tools for teaching children how to speak up and carry themselves with confidence; call each other out on cruelty; resolve conflict and cope with teasing, taunting, physical abuse, and cyberbullying; and be smart consumers of technology and media. This is the book that will help us do better.
And we can. Do better.
“When you know better you do better.” -Maya Angelou
I have four copies of “Bullied” to give away. Let me know in the comments here how you would use this book to change the culture around bullying to one of dignity and respect. I will pick four winners on Friday, August 10th at 10pm CST.
To book Carrie to speak, please make arrangements through Suzanne Wickham at Harper Collins. Her email is Suzanne (dot) wickham (at) harpercollins (dot) com.
I really loved her book, and I hope you find it as useful as I did.