In The Midnight Diet Club, Esme is finally able to confront her bullies when she is joined by a group of children gathered by her only two friends. It is an ideal ending. It would be wonderful if every victimized child could gather their own ‘posse’ and confront their nemeses with this kind of peer support. Most victims are unable to do so on their own, but encouraging children to not support bullying is an important goal we should emphasize in schools and in our homes. We can’t force children to become friends with every child in a school, grade, or class, but we can encourage them to stand together when a vampire is about to attack, to eliminate the darkness and isolation, he/she needs for their cowardly work.
Every parent, teacher, clergy person, administrator, needs to create a climate where every child feels that no matter how ‘trivial’ the problem may be viewed by others, they will be taken seriously. It sounds easier than it is. Some will argue this will open a floodgate of kids streaming into ‘my office’ for help with everyday little ‘crises’, but if we specifically invite the bullied child to come to us for help, make him/her aware that we are completely open to listen, and not judge, do everything we can to fight the sensation that they are at fault, worthless, and isolated, I believe we are taking the most important step in helping these children.
Yes, we must work to build self-image and create better laws and punishments for bullying behaviors. But we need a place to start. We can post all the positive image placards we want in a school and home, but if we don’t have one that says, “You are never alone,” and “Come to me if you feel you are being bullied,” our children will continue to feel as if they must face these ‘vampires’ alone. That is the darkness that creates desperation and tragedy. No child, victim or bully, should ever feel they are alone. Together, we can make a difference.
Mark H. Newhouse loved teaching in Central Islip, Long Island, and was Elementary/Secondary Teacher of the Year (New York State Reading Association, 1989), and an adjunct professor at SUNY Old Westbury. His book about bullying, The Midnight Diet Club, won 1st Prize YA in the Florida Writer’s Association Royal Palm Literary Awards, and is also an audiobook (Amazon). The Rockhound Science Mysteries, children catch crazy crooks with fun experiments, won Learning Magazine’s Teacher’s Choice Award. Born in Germany to Holocaust survivors, he offers free anti-bullying games and activities at www.bullystoppersclub.com.