ENID — The end game
Finding solutions starts at the beginning, school and community professionals say, by teaching parents to recognize the signs of a sensitive or overbearing child and guiding him or her toward self-empowerment or empathy.
Becoming a pawn of a bully is not the fault of the victim, but the reactions of those on the receiving end of an attack contribute to the overall problem.
Sensitivity, professionals are learning, is something inherited. A child is born with a “neurological disadvantage,” Close said, a reality he admits is true toward those prone to being thicker-skinned that could lead to a lack of empathy and aggression.
Education is the key to overcome, Close and ATS professionals say.
“The Highly Sensitive Person,” by Elaine Aron, is a book that offers a good place to start in identifying the markers that would make one susceptible to bullying, Close said.
The book offers a self-test titled “Are You Highly Sensitive?” that can provide one with knowledge about his or her sensitivity level. It also explains how those children — who are more easily overwhelmed by stimulation, more aware of intense emotions present in their environments, overwhelmed by the complexity of their environments and more susceptible to sensory stimulation — “... would tend to be more emotionally troubled by the slings and arrows of existence.”
ATS employs a program called Love and Logic that teaches how to parent using empathy.
“I think that’s something our society has lost out on,” Livesay said.
“It’s (today’s society) just hit back,” Sundvall added. “And sometimes as a parent you want to tell them to hit back.”
Teaching empathy, instead, ends the cycle and promotes awareness.
That’s the idea behind Great Expectations in the Enid school system as well, and while Erdner said she cannot state with absolute certainty it’s making an overwhelming difference, she said “there are fewer incident reports coming across my desk.”
“I think it’s important to teach students to stick up for one another,” Leap said.
And Trojan added there are kids who will take on that role.
It is more recognizable, McCune said, when it comes to special-needs children, who often are championed by others.
Counselors provide a “safe place,” Livesay said, and advice — “it’s OK to be mad, but it’s not OK to be bad”— and ways to role-play situations that may provide answers for a victim facing their antagonizer.
But ultimately, ending bullying hinges on teaching the thick-skinned bully more empathy and the thin-skinned victim more self-empowerment.
As well, it is teaching society it is unacceptable and when one sees bullying they should put an end to it.
“It only takes one instance to make a difference in a child’s life,” Sundvall said.
Kaylin hopes for that difference every day, so maybe life would be a little easier and there would be more understanding.
“It’s not fun on the other side,” she said. “It may be fun on your side, but it’s not fun on ours.”