*The subject for #1000speak for Compassion this month is bullying. This is a post I wrote in November, and I think it is fitting, so I am re-posting again. Please take the time to read the other #1000speak bloggers’ posts on bullying this month.
I’ve recently learned of another young girl who has taken her own life because she’d been bullied at school for so long she couldn’t take it anymore.
There is nothing more unimaginable for a mother than the thought of losing her children. But the idea of losing your child to bullying, something preventable, makes my heart break for that mother, for the mothers of any children who have taken their lives, or who have even considered it.
Plenty of people like to point fingers at the school teachers and administration, and I agree that they play a role, but lets back up even further – parents, it’s time to start pointing fingers at ourselves.
A few years ago, I had done something early one morning that evidently irritated a co-worker (I know, I’m just as shocked as you are to find out I’m not everyone’s cup of tea). It was more of a “huh, she does that differently than I do” sort of thing (in my book), however, in hers it was a “what the he**?” kind of thing. She proceeded to share her annoyance about me with several of the other people on my team, and it got back to me before 11:00 in the morning. In a joking manner, I decided to call her out on it in front of everyone while we were all gathering for a meeting. She blushed and stuttered, trying to defend her reasons for gossiping, but effectively, it went no further. My reason for sharing this story is that this was a group of grown women. Well educated, seasoned business professionals, most of whom are mothers, spreading gossip like we’re back in the 6th grade.
Let’s translate that to how we behave around our kids. Are we gossiping about what our neighbors are up to? Passing our negative verbal judgement about how other kids are dressed or acting when we pick up our children after school?
It’s not enough to say, “this stays here, okay?” to our children. That’s the equivalent of the middle-school girl whispering to her friend, “I’m only telling you, so don’t tell anyone else…” and it’s through the mouths of 100 other kids by lunch time.
Should we stop discussing issues of morality and life choices with our kids, using other folks as an example? Not at all. But there is a huge difference between telling your kids about the meth lab explosion across town that landed a mother in prison, and commenting to your neighbor that she’s “put on so much weight lately, bless your heart it must be your new prescription, I don’t know how you’re getting in those jeans.” Our children see our behavior as “correct”. We are the largest influence in their lives right now. Even if we tell them gossiping is bullying, we’re showing them something completely different.
I see so many women, grown women, making snarky comments on social media to one another these days, things they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. I understand that social media makes us feel braver because there is no physical confrontation. But our kids are learning it from us; it’s okay to just make one little snide comment, what can it hurt? Pretty soon you’re making them a lot, and it makes you feel good, you’re getting it off your chest, right? This is boosting your own sense of self, “well at least I’m not ______ like she is.” Thus, making yourself feel more awesome. You don’t see, or really care, about the harm you’re doing.
According to www.stopbullying.gov, almost 30% of students in middle school say they’ve been bullied, more than once a month. I’m taking a wild guess here, but I’m thinking that most of those kids don’t have the opportunity to confront their peer group in a team meeting so that the bullying stops. Even if they did have such an opportunity they’re still children, many of them being too shy or insecure to say anything. So they stay largely silent; about being bullied, or about the bullying they see.
I feel passionate about this topic because I was bullied horribly in middle school. I’m 40 years old and thinking back on that time in my life still makes my stomach turn. I wouldn’t relive 8th grade for all the money in the world. My heart breaks for kids who are scared to go to school, the sole purpose of which is to educate children, because of the social environment. I know how they feel, and how alone/isolated/different they feel from everyone else. They may be young, but we cannot discount what they’re going through. It’s not enough just to say “it’ll get better honey, trust me.” As adults we know that it gets better (for the most part), but no 13-year-old can see that far into the future. That doesn’t get them through the pain of today.
Moms and Dads, I’m asking that we give some thought to our own behavior; on the internet, in real life. What examples do we set for our children by the way we behave? Are there things that we can do differently? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this (and be nice, that’s the whole point).