When people do something good for humanity, you’d assume they would be applauded by their peers for their efforts. Unfortunately that’s not the case with Nadia Sparkes.
Sparkes has been nicknamed “Trash Girl” by bullies at her school because she picks up trash on the two-mile route from her school to her house. The 12-year-old uses the basket of her bike to collect the trash, and in the short time she’s been doing this, Sparkes has already collected more than two recycling bins’ worth of plastic, per her local newspaper, the Eastern Daily Press.
However, some kids at Sparkes’s school decided her green efforts are a cause for bullying, telling her that it’s “her job” to pick up their trash — but Sparkes isn’t fazed. “I’m not going to stop doing the right thing because of them, and if they are going to call me Trash Girl, they can say it with respect,” she told the newspaper. “I’m doing something to protect the world they also live in. It’s everyone’s job. We are all responsible for keeping this world safe, instead of believing that it’s always someone else’s job.”
Nadia’s mom Paula said her daughter’s school has been supportive in fighting the bullying, but she points out that it’s also taking place outside of school. “I told her she had two choices: She could either stop collecting rubbish, stop drawing their attention, and hopefully they would leave her alone,” Paula said. “Or she could own [the name] ‘Trash Girl.’”
So, Nadia and her family created a public Facebook page dubbed Team Trash Girl, where waves of people have posted messages of support for the teen. “Amazing girl, wonderful job you’re doing, I hope this inspires more people, you are awesome, don’t let anyone tell you different!” one person wrote. “You’re already doing so much as a young girl, I can’t wait to see what you’re going to so as an adult!” another said.
But this bullying isn’t surprising, Jacob Ham, PhD, director of the Center for Child Trauma and Resilience and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NYC, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. He says there are two major types of bullying: bullying that’s done because the child has been hurt in the past and that youngster now wants to hurt others, and bullying because kids want to figure out who they are and where they belong. “They sometimes tease people who stand out and might not fit in,” Ham says. “It’s a way to say, ‘I’m part of us and they’re the outsider.’”
Kids also tend to bully over things they don’t understand, clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. If they bully a child who wears thick glasses, for example, they may end up changing their behavior when they realize the child is legally blind after experiencing a car accident, he says.
If your children are bullied over doing something altruistic, Ham says it’s a good idea to encourage them to stay convinced of their purpose. “You have to always stay purpose-driven,” he says. “Then you can endure a bunch of threats because you’re doing what you care about.” Mayer agrees. “Parents need to emphatically state to the child that they are not the ‘wrong’ one here,” he says.
Ham also recommends that parents encourage their child to reach out for social support from people who understand and believe in him or her. And, for parents, it’s crucial to reach out to your child’s school for help (if that’s where the bullying is occurring). “It takes a team effort to stop bullying,” he says.
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