Parents, are we grown-up bullies?

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*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?

via jessbarretttn

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).

 

9 thoughts on “Parents, are we grown-up bullies?

  1. It’s always kind of amazing to me that when we say “bullying” there is some implication that it’s limited to kids. It’s not. They learn that behavior somewhere, obviously. Things like you talk about here are important to keep in mine – kids model our behavior, our language, our attitudes. To behave in ways we wouldn’t want them to just doesn’t make sense.
    It’s hard to believe that incident you relate happened among adult professional women. But at the same time, if no one taught them how to stop or behave any differently, of course they grew into adults who would behave as bullies to one another. One o the things I dislike most when I hear kids bully or tease one another is “it was a joke.” But so often it’s not.
    Thanks for adding your words to #1000Speak!

  2. I’ve heard so many instances of people targeting others on Facebook and making horrible comments that no one would dare to make in person! I think you’re absolutely right that we need to evaluate the type of example we’re setting for our kids!

  3. I am impressed with how you handled that situation at work.
    I absolutely agree with you that we as parents (and just as adults) need to model the behaviour we would like to see in our children. It is important to notice how we behave with other people and it’s also very important to notice how we behave with our own children. I feel sad when I see people say they order their children to be nice to others, or punish them for being mean. While their aim is to create kind kids, what they are modelling is that those with the power can use force to get what they want. It makes far more sense to have that talk the effects of various behaviours.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  4. Such a well written post, I really hope my hubby & I are setting a good example to our boys. I remember a few comments people made about other people when I was young that made me worry that people were saying things about me behind my back. I don’t think people realise that small things can have a big impact

    1. I think you’re right. The little things have a big impact, especially on young people. When they’re still trying to figure out who they are, hurtful comments can do damage, even if someone thinks what they said was “really no big deal”.

  5. Jessica, I am very passionate about this same issue going on today. As a parent, I sit down with my kids about once a month and talk to them about being kind to everyone and that I better not ever hear that they are being mean to ANY kid as rest assured, they are not going to enjoy the consequences! In my opinion, our children mirror how their parents act. If you gossip and and talk bad about other people in front of your children, you think your kids are not going to do the same thing! It starts at home! About 2 months ago, I got a call from the dean of students who wanted to tell me about how Molly has taken one of her classmates under her wings. This girl is very shy, doesn’t really have any friends and has a hard time making friends. He told me that I have no idea how much of an impact this has had on this girl and how much happier she seems at school, etc. As a parent, this was such a proud moment for me! I asked Molly what her other friends said about her befriending this girl. She said “I told them they were going to play with her as well”! I know that I am not a perfect parent by any means, however I am instiling in my children what really matters in life and that is being KIND! I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the kids who are being bullied. It’s so incredibly heartbreaking. Like you said, it is 100% preventable!!

    1. Tina, I’ve always felt like you were one of the most amazing mothers on the planet. Thank you for sharing your story about sweet Molly. I’m not surprised she’s an amazing kid. You have much to be proud of.

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