Purposeful Parent Tip: Treat Others As You’d Want to Be Treated.
If you’re a parent of a tween or teen, then you know that this age is a challenge. Kids are trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in the world. To do that, they test boundaries, challenge you and their friends, and sometimes push you to your limits.
With hormones raging, their mouths go faster than their minds and some of the unkindest things can slip out sometimes. While it’s not entirely their fault, teaching children that their words and actions have an impact on others is critical to them learning to be mindful, compassionate, and empathetic.
We live in an age where name-calling is seen as all in good fun. Well, it’s all in good fun if the recipient of these taunts is strong enough in themselves to brush it off. And if you’re thin-skinned or a little sensitive, guess what? Not so much fun.
How we came to be a society that finds humor in bringing other people down instead of building them up is beyond my comprehension. When I was a child in elementary school and you called someone a name, you were sent to the principal and your parents were called. Those were the days when children were afraid of this repercussion. Today, it falls on deaf ears for many.
But we know that there are bullies in the world and they exist everywhere. At home, at school, in the office. And since we can’t send everyone to sensitivity training, what’s a parent to do? At its core, bullying is all about having control or power over someone. These people are likely very insecure and feel hopeless in whatever their situation may be. They feel ignored, unappreciated, unloved and so to build themselves up, they tear others down – with no apparent care for the effect it has on others. This is not a defense, just an observation of mine.
How do we teach our children to deal with bullies? Some say to ignore it. Others say to confront it but in a non-confrontational way (and how do you do that?). Still others say that there’s nothing you can do about it, so just accept it as it is part of life. Really?
There are many movements that have arisen recently to begin to address bullying and its effects and I applaud them. But there’s one flaw in the approach. It’s starting too late. To stop bullying, it must never start.
Children do what they see, not what they are told. We all know that. So if they do not witness kindness and respect in their surroundings on a daily basis, then how are they to know otherwise? As parents, do you fight and call each other names? Do you insult each other or talk about others in your family negatively? Do you permit this behavior from your child? Do you watch TV shows that illustrate people treating each other poorly? What are you doing as a parent, intentionally or not, that is potentially supporting the act of bullying in any form?
We are all quick to say “oh no, that’s not me and my family.” I encourage you to examine this more closely. What is the reaction when you watch a TV show where the characters are telling each other to “shut up” or calling each other “stupid”? Do you laugh because the scene is funny? Do you point out to your children that this is ‘not nice’? Or do you take it a step further and stop watching the program? All one has to do is watch any Disney program these days and you’ll see how bullying is glamourized.
It’s hard to make these tough calls sometimes. To stand up against the majority who think this behavior is ok because it’s “all in good fun”. Nothing is in good fun when it
makes another person feel bad about themselves. And just because they don’t
show it on the outside, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt them.
Tolerance and acceptance are big lessons for little kids, but if you start right from the get go, bullying will never become part of their world.