Lisa Ford Berry, founder of BRAVE Society in Carmichael, a non-profit dedicated to bully prevention strategy, will tell you that she is living every parent’s worst nightmare. “You do not want to be me,” Berry said. “I am the parent who did everything on the ‘checklist’ for raising children right. I followed all of the good advice for good parenting and I was involved in my children’s schools. And yet my son Michael, who was a happy child, an excellent student and had a nice circle of friends, took his own life.”
In the fall of 2008, Berry’s son Michael shot himself in the boys’ bathroom at his high school campus on his 17th birthday.
His suicide was a calculated response to relentless cyberbullying about a rumor that he was gay. According to Berry the audit trail of texts and MySpace posts revealed a massive, cyber-powered, ongoing homophobic hate assault on Michael perpetrated by one individual with many followers, and essentially endorsed by an entire school community who said and did nothing to stop it while Michael pleaded for help.
From the letter that he left his parents, Berry learned that the humiliation and hopelessness was too great to bring it to them. “People need to understand that it is possible to completely dismantle a person through ridicule, judging and isolation,” Berry said. “The most striking, gut wrenching aspect of the entire ordeal was the silence of his friends and school administrators.”
Berry’s experience illustrates how parental control over the outcomes of our children’s lives is an illusion. “We have our internal check lists to measure and judge ourselves against one another,” she said. “And even if we are simply aiming for the best outcomes for our own children, look what happened to Michael and other children bullied to death.”
Berry says that Michael’s death reinforces a simple truth about judging others. “The arrogance of humanity is our greatest downfall,” she said. “Inherent biases create the judging that we feel its okay to pass it on. We need to change how we see ourselves so we can be ourselves.”
In this regard, the most important parental control setting is your personal motivation. We can do everything in our power to set our children up for personal security and success, and still our children are independent souls with free will who must confront the bully as resilient individuals. They learn this resiliency by our example. So if we are judging other people’s children and their parents, or allow others to be treated poorly, know that we are promoting a bully culture that attacks the individual which one day could be your child.
To learn more about bully prevention strategy in the home and on campus, mark your calendars for the BRAVE Society conference Sat. Oct.12th at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Banana Moments: Help for Parenting in the Network Culture
- The Authority In Me (freedom from manipulation of the social network)
- BRAVE Society
- Fresh Start Family Culture Builder for Household Executives
- Capital Christian Center
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