Ex gang member experienced bullying first-hand
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Almost every child has heard the nursery rhyme, but bullying expert Ron Glodoski said it’s just not true. Words deflate, they hurt.
Glodoski, who was bullied as a young child and later became a bully himself, spoke to Socorro students from elementary school to high school, as well as their parents, this week. His message was clear:
“When kids are called names, they start believing it. They start believing they are lazy, stupid and worthless. The No. 1 killer is verbal abuse. It’s when they start believing (what they are told), that’s when it gets bad.”
More than 50 parents, teachers and several children attended Glodoski’s presentation Tuesday evening at Socorro High School. His presentation that night was different than what he talked to students about during numerous presentations at school sites.
“There has always been bullying,” Glodoski said before his presentation. “I was bullied most of my life — by my father, by my brothers and by kids at school. I was called stupid and dumb, and finally I became so sick of it, I became the bully.”
For years, Glodoski didn’t care. He gave up. When he was 12, he joined his first gang. In all, he’s been in jail 35 times for offenses such as car theft, assault and battery and robbery. He ended his criminal career after joining the Outlaws, a notorious motorcycle gang.
“I just thought there had to be something better than this,” he said.
And there was.
After years of therapy, he finally was able to forgive his father for years of physical and verbal abuse. He was ready to live life and to help others realize that there was something better out there — something worth living for.
Glodoski began by volunteering at youth detention centers. He said most had given up on life, given up on themselves and had given up on hope.
This fast-talking, ex-gang banger told parents he was happy — proud — that they showed up for the night’s presentation.
“It shows me you care about your community, and it shows me you care about your kids,” he said. “The problem with parenting is we learn it from our parents.”
He said his father learned his way of parenting from his father, and Glodoski learned how to parent from his father.
“Like father like son, like mother like daughter,” Glodoski stressed. “If you want healthy kids, don’t hit them … don’t call them names. Prisons are overfilled with inmates who were told they were worthless.”
Glodoski told parents there are numerous reasons why “good kids” turn bad: 1. Drugs and alcohol; 2. Hanging around with negative people; 3. Kids stop believing in themselves, and; 4. Name calling.
“But people can change their lives,” he said. “I’m not a fool, I know it doesn’t happen overnight or for everyone. It took me five years to change my life. I was called a lot of names, but I came to realize that I couldn’t hang around with the people I thought were my friends. You hang with a gang member, you’ll be one. If you hang with positive people, you’ll be one. You are who you hang out with.”
Today, Glodoski is celebrating 28 years of sobriety. He said the hardest choice he has ever had to make was going drug free, and the best choice was dropping his negative friends.
“Everything is a choice,” Glodoski said, “even being in a bad mood.”
He said parents, teachers and everyone has a choice when they are talking with children and students. And that choice to call a child a name, demean them, is something they can’t take back. It could live with a child for the rest of their life.
“I never met a kid who liked to be called a name,” he said. “There are consequences to calling a child a name.”
Glodoski pointed to the infamous Columbine shooting where two students gunned down and killed teachers and fellow students.
“They were bullied and teased once too often,” he said. “I met a 12-year-old girl who was in jail for murder. I asked her what happened, and she said she was on the school bus and a 16-year-old boy kept harassing her. She stabbed him in the heart by accident, and killed him.”
Glodoski said there are three things kids have to have to be successful: 1. Drop your attitude. If you think you’re worthless, you will be; 2. Keep that burning desire to succeed, and; 3. Believe in yourself.
“Every child can succeed,” he said. “There are no bad kids, just kids who need help. They need someone — anyone — to believe in them. If they have that, there’s no reason they can’t succeed.”
After an hour and a half, Glodoski reminded parents that they are the biggest influence in their children’s life.
“And if I left you with anything tonight, please do not defend your kids if they’re bulling,” he said. “There’s something going on with them, they need your help.”
Barbara Gutierrez, an educational assistant at Parkview Elementary School, said she left Glodoski’s presentation not only thinking about the pre-kindergarten students in her class, but about how everything you say to children makes a difference — good and bad.
“I thought he was very good — he’s very enthusiastic. What I liked most was that he was coming from a place of experience,” Gutierrez said of Glodoski’s presentation. “A lot of times we’ll have psychologist and people come in, but it’s more about what they’ve learned than what they’ve experienced. It seemed more real.”
Gutierrez said she learned a lot from Glodoski’s presentation, including that kids are very impressionable and everyone has to be careful what we say to them. She said everyone has to make sure that words are used to build children up and not tear them down.
Even though Gutierrez is with children in pre-school, she has noticed kids have a tendency to call each other names, but that teachers at Parkview Elementary do intervene, telling them that it’s not right.
“Teachers are very good about redirecting the situation and giving lessons to the children about how to interact with one another,” she said. “I have also noticed that kids form little cliques, and they’ll leave a child out. We’ll bring them together, tell them it’s not nice, and work with them to play together and build that community in the classroom. And they respond to that.”
Gutierrez said she agrees with Glodoski that the good and bad behavior alike start at home, from parents and siblings.
“Life is hard enough and we shouldn’t beat each other up,” she said. “We need to build a sense of belonging, and it all starts at home.”
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