As long as I can remember and probably longer than I’ve been alive, bullying has existed. I’m pretty sure that bullying has touched each and every one of us whether we were the ones bullied or the ones doing the bullying. Why now, after all these years, is it trendy to jump on the anti-bullying bandwagon? Anti-bullying should have been a life lesson that parents taught their children by example. We shouldn’t have to have an “anti-bullying” agenda now.
Recently I read a post called “The Continuing Tragedy of Dear Sweet Old Karen Klein” and while I may not agree 100% with the entire post (I agree with most of it however), I do agree with the underlying message that children will basically do what they see. Children are blank slates waiting to be filled with all the wonders of the world, and the first wonder of the world a child learns from is the parents. If a child grows up with prejudice, hatred, anger, sarcasm and bullying; he will learn the same and see it as natural. A child who grows up learning by example the life of a bully, will bully, and then we as adults cry out that “This bullying must stop!” I agree, this bullying must stop but it doesn’t stop with the children, it stops with the parent first.
Growing up, I was the person who was bullied. I was also the person who bullied. Yes, I admit, I did some bullying back in the day – until my parents found out. When I entered elementary school I never knew what it meant to be bullied until I was picked on for not having the right shoes, or the right hairstyle, or the trendiest dresses. I learned from my some of my classmates that bullying was acceptable and even popular if you were doing it to the less fortunate than yourself; and so, I picked on people who didn’t live up to my norm. It wasn’t until my mother caught on to my bullying that she did a little bullying of her own. What was her bullying? Punishment pure and simple. She didn’t like what I was doing. She told me that “picking on other people” was wrong. I was probably sent to my room (after a little swat to my behind) to “think” about what I had said and how I would feel if someone said the same thing to me. I know, a barbaric form of punishment! I thought the same thing. It must have worked because I learned quickly that bullying just didn’t cut the mustard. More importantly, bullying didn’t make me feel any better about me.
You see, in some ways, that’s the more important lesson. The underlying cause of bullying is to make one feel better about oneself by lowering another. Once I got that lesson, I realized that bullying was only a temporary gratification but it never really changed how I thought about me. I was still the same, and in some ways worse for how I treated others. When it comes right down to it, it is all about me and how I can live with the things I do and don’t do. That is a parental lesson that should be taught to each and every child. Each time I break someone else down, I break off a piece of myself; I am too valuable to lose all sorts of pieces. If I keep chipping away at others misfortune or lack of beauty or lack of intelligence or lack of…..whatever, I have no time to look inside of myself to see exactly who I am and who I want to become.
There are no guarantees in life so I’m all about increasing the odds; and parents can increase or decrease the odds of what their children will or will not do. If you want to increase the odds that your child won’t steal, don’t steal; if you want to increase the odds that your child won’t lie, don’t lie; if you want to increase the odds that your child won’t be verbally abusive, don’t be verbally abusive; and, you guessed it, if you don’t want your child to be a bully, don’t bully. Let your adult actions influence your child and the children around you.
It was my responsibility to teach my children the life lessons I wanted them to know. MY responsibility. I could not count on the television to provide them with sound morals so there were times I had to turn off the TV and explain to them why I objected to a particular program. I couldn’t trust the radio to teach them what was right and wrong so I listened to the music they listened to so I could discuss with them intelligently what I thought about the lyrics. Part of my job as a parent was to be in tune with their likes and dislikes. I think it’s called “active listening” now.
When my children were young, the “popular” thing to do was to go “hang out at the mall.” I didn’t allow my kids to hang out at the mall and soon discovered from other parents what I was missing. “I can’t believe you won’t let the kids go to the mall. Just think, 6 whole hours to yourself!” I would have loved 6 hours to myself to get my hair and nails done along with a pedicure and waxing but the cost was too great. My children left alone in a mall with no real money to speak of and idle time? No thank you. To me, that was trouble just waiting to happen. “But you let your children watch ‘R’ rated movies. I don’t let my kids do that.” Well darlin’, I’m there when they watch the movies and I can actually tell them the difference between reality and fantasy. I wanted my children to grow up with the morals I thought they needed to have a happy, healthy life. I didn’t want the television, the movies, the radio or other children teaching them things without letting me have an input; and for me to have an input I had to listen.
Back to topic. Bullying is wrong. I don’t like it. I wish it would stop. I don’t think television commercials will stop bullying. I don’t think parents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines because their children are bullies will help either. In my humble opinion, you have to be an open book that you want your children to read. They will learn more effectively by watching. Children emulate their parents. They play house, they play work, they play church, they play bully. They play and eventually do what they see.
Both my children are adults now. I have given them what I hope are the best life lessons that I could teach them. It is up to them now.