This has been weighing heavy on my mind lately. In a world where there are parents teaching their kids it’s ok to use their fists to fight their battles. Where parents are teaching kids that people unlike themselves are weird. We are teaching kids that you must be exactly the same as everyone else and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be friends.
Just a few months ago, I had a conversation with a certain five year old about how weird ‘geeks’ are. EW!
I was appalled at the words coming out of this little girl’s mouth. I’m a geek, I said. That’s certainly not a lie. I love all things fantasy and Dr. Who is slowly getting me hooked on the science coolness of things. She said, “NO. No you are not!” She sounds disgusted and I wondered how she treated her classmates in regards to such a word. I’m raising my own kiddo to be a geek.
Instead of celebrating the differences in people, we have kids calling each other “fags” in the hallway. Using “gay” as a term to be used as stupid or insignificant. Kids are taught in church and in the home that you shouldn’t be friends with anyone who is a ‘sinner’ and doesn’t believe in God like you do. (side note: I was told this in my own Sunday School class. I was told to steer clear of those who don’t believe in God. When I challenged that with questions, I got strange looks and was made to feel small and ashamed for questioning.)
Instead of teaching kids to think for themselves, we are telling them how they should feel. How they should behave. How they should believe. We are breeding intolerance. We are breeding acceptance to violence. We are breeding a generation of kids who will use their fists instead of their resources. Instead of their words.
I feel like some parents are playing the part of bullies. When you tell your child that they must ‘stand up for yourself’ and not be a ‘pussy’ you are using negative terms to force your kid to feel bad about their walking away from confrontation. When we tell our kids it’s not ok to ‘narc’ they feel less empowered to tell an adult about the bullying.
This leaves them with little to no choices. Ignoring, walking away, and telling an adult has all been proven to help diminish the power a bully has over a child. Bullies need to feel power over something, they need to have a reaction. If they don’t get one, logic would say they will get bored. Why are we taking away our children’s only ammo to defend against bullies and ‘stand up for themselves.”
Bullying starts with the parents. Let your kids be themselves. Let your kids think for themselves. Build up their self-esteem so they are confident in who they are. Be an open book, let your kid know you are there to answer their questions and to talk about anything they need to talk about. Demonstrate ways to resolve conflict without raising your voice and without violence. Demonstrate in your home how to tell an adult about harmful things without being a ‘narc.’
Our kids will always encounter a bully. Whether in school or at work. As a child or an adult. Bullies are everywhere because in the end, their parents taught them it’s ok to use violence and negativity to get what they want out of people. It’s our job as parents to curb this and stop teaching our kids that it’s ok to bully people into doing what they want. It’s our job as parents to build up our kids’ self esteem so bullies have no ammo and no way to trigger a negative response from our kids.
As a lesbian mom, I know my kid will have some questions about her family and I anticipate that her classmates are being taught that her parents are not legally married and they are not the same. My biggest fear is that this sweet daughter of mine will be the victim of bullying. I am at a loss, because of my own upbringing, how to handle a bullying situation without standing up and using your fists.
When I say she can just tell her a teacher or an adult, I remember that when I was in school, the teachers didn’t really do much or were not very effective. Also, I remember being told that if you ‘tattle’ you were a narc and it could increase the bullying later.
(edited: in response to Ashley’s comment below, she made me think!)
There is a fine line between bullying and sticking up for yourself. The problem is that there has to be a better solution other than violence for violence; an eye for an eye. I want my kid to defend herself, but can we not teach our kids there are more acceptable ways of doing that without hitting back. I was brought up that if someone hits you, hit them back. That was acceptable. However, I’m beginning to wonder if that was a good idea on my parents’ part. We were taught it’s ok to fight back, but 9 times out of 10, those kids who ‘hit back’ are the ones punished. So then, what lesson does that teach the victims of bullying.
At such a young age, can we not try and teach our kids that hitting isn’t acceptable regardless of the receiving end of the violence. If we allow this behavior at school age, do we then say it’s ok to hit me when you’re a teenager if you don’t agree with something? Do we then give the impression to our children that it’s alright to break the law just because we don’t think they are fair? Where’s the line where authority is respected and not just another person to blame or pin bullying on?
We are the parents who shape the new generation of children. Let’s change the way kids treat one another.
The line blurs in the minds of little ones. It is bound to get confusing for them when they are told they can hit back and stand up for themselves, but yet they can’t back talk their parents and they can’t say no to their teachers whether they agree or not. Why is is acceptable for the children to hit back, but not to talk about how they feel, talk about how they want things to be, how they think the world around them should be shaped.
I just feel like this bullying epidemic should open up the lines of communication between parent and child. We should sit our kids down and say, “Hitting is never ok. You are better than that. Use your words. Tell someone. Talk to someone.”
So how do we help our kids who are bullied? How do we help our kids from being a bully? I was a bully in my day, I certainly don’t want to repeat that in my kid. I also don’t want her to feel like her worth is tied up in violence and that’s the only way she can stand up for herself. I don’t want her to feel a sense of accomplishment when she beats someone up, either in retaliation or provocation.
So moms, tell me, how do you deal with the topic of bullying and if you aren’t moms of school age children yet, have you thought of a plan of attack yet?