Life With Nine Kids

Monday, February 3, 2014

Adults: You STOP Bullying First

Dear Parents, caregivers of children, or future parents,

  This ranty letter isn't just about one kid... this is about all kids, but one kid inspired me to write it. An 11 year old tried to commit suicide by hanging himself and he is fighting for his life now. (Link at bottom of page)
He was being bullied at school. These types of stories are not few and far between. These kinds of stories are easy to find, easy to come across, and horrible to imagine. So are stories about sexual abuse among kids and teens -peers abusing each other. It happens more than anyone knows because parents are often too preoccupied to realize it. It happens more than it should because we let kids raise each other most of the week, especially from Jr. High on up.

 Childhood should be the most amazing, free, happy, transformational time of a child's life, instead it's often a constant race to survive. It's a time that many look back on with good memories...but most of us also have heartbreaking stories too. There are often various events, situations, and periods of time where we should have been protected or guided either from the bully or from being the bully.

 Socialization of children is a total's not healthy for kids to grow up with as much unsupervised alone time as they do -completely free to ridicule and treat each other however they want. Kids shouldn't be expected to know how to treat others if they aren't guided through it. Not only do they need supervision, but they need examples, and they need to be taught. We follow around three year old kids and teach them manners, basic life skills and hygiene, how to cut with scissors, and how to cross the street. We teach our four year old kids to share, how to clean up, and how to make a bowl of cereal. We teach these young tikes how to talk to adults and say thank you and to not throw fits or whine. We teach them to share and to be fair with their young friends; but soon, all too soon, we let these kids run off largely unsupervised to play with other children from families we don't even know... all in the name of "socialization." And we let them do it forever and we rarely look back. From kindergarten on many of us rarely see what kids do during the day when they are "socializing."
 Today I just wanted a type out a message to parents and the message is this: What you say affects kids. What they see, hear, and learn about... ALL types of communication you have with them and that they have with other people affects them. If you bash others, or simply just complain or harass others within earshot of children they learn it is okay to do it to other people...namely their peers. They learn communication and socialization first from you and second from others and television/radio. They learn it's funny to ridicule others. We all do it at some point, and the point of it is usually to selfishly put ourselves on a pedestal above all others. It eventually becomes a serious habit for most people. A habit most people don't even realize they have. I'm a really nice person who cares about other people, but even I realized a few years back I said things I shouldn't. I changed myself for my kids, because even though I wasn’t a mean person I still said some negative things that I wouldn’t want them to say. In our household we also quit saying the word hate. We have to find kinder and more descriptive ways and reasons for saying we dislike something or someone; we also often to try to match a positive with a negative. This humanizes people and broadens our view on things. Even politically I play fair and try to teach two sides to every opinion and that people have the right to theirs. I just feel like it makes kinder, better kids to do so.

 Please pay attention to what you say about people that like certain things. Pay attention to how you treat others. Pay attention when you say 'I hate this actor’s ugly hair', 'I hate this show', 'look at that fat person', or whatever other rude thing you hold a personal opinion or bias about. What you say and how you treat others becomes your child's world view.
 Please pay attention when you say someone looks like a slut, or they have a big nose, or they are "lazy" because they get government assistance. Pay attention when hateful words fly out of your mouth about politics. Pay really close attention to everything you say and imagine your child going up to another child and rattling off those same words.

Just pay attention.

 If you say something on purpose or accident at least have the common sense and decency to follow up your negativity with something positive like: 'Well at least variety makes things interesting, I might not like it but people have a right to be who they are." Or, "I shouldn't say that, they are people too, I will be nicer and not bully people with my opinions."

 Make new habits to NOT say things you wouldn't say to someone in person. Deep down most of us adults don't want to hurt other people; most of us do have a conscience when held accountable for our words and actions. We have to teach our kids right from wrong and that should come largely from our example.

 Our kids grow up in a world where it's funny to ridicule people: just watch TV and read celebrity news. Read anything on the internet (especially the comments on news stories or on Facebook).  You'll see just how disgusting and hateful people are. A woman posted pictures of herself surfing while pregnant and the outpouring of hate and people calling her an idiot was baffling. Another blogger posted what others thought of as too many 'selfies' and so she received hate mail and death threats, from adults! Bullying is rampant, it's bad, and it's hurting our society. People LOVE to hate, and honestly they feed on it... it's gross. It has become cool to hate on things. It has  become cool to spew on about how much people and things suck.
 Commercials, T.V., movies, radio, magazines, Internet can find hate and shame in those things daily. Our kids soak it all up and they learn to be judgmental and hateful through them, their peers, and us. We all enjoy a funny skit on Saturday Night Live from time to time, or edgy comic bit, or political meme poking fun. We all laugh at someone's expense sometimes. I'm saying to be aware of it. Ask yourself why you think it's funny to make fun of others. Ask yourself why you're laughing. Ask yourself what your child is watching.

Our kids are watching and listening more than anyone thinks.

 I just recently heard one of my kids mock something they didn't understand or even care to understand. It wasn't a big deal, it wasn't even hateful, but it was unkind and uncompassionate. I broke into an impassioned speech about being nice and kind and watching what we say and who we judge. What they mocked meant something to someone and I don't want them spreading unkindness or meanness to others. It's especially important because their younger brothers and sisters were listening to them. It was a perfect example of standing up for someone in front of my kids so that they would learn empathy. They understood when I was done, and of course hadn’t even realized they were being unkind or negative.

 So that's my message today: watch kids, guide kids, show them good examples, talk to them about bullying, ask them what kind of bullying they see and how it makes them feel, ask them if they bully. Express to your kids that we should be kind to others and stand up for others. Be the person you want your kids to be. Teach personal boundaries and sexual boundaries. Teach kids not to touch, assault, rape, harm, push, or speak badly to other people. Teach kids about cyber bullying, and monitor what they do online. Don’t just assume they will be good kids. Say the words to them. Tell them what you expect and ask them to talk to you about things they see on T.V. or from their peers. Start young and then show them by example.
 After all the effort I put into raising nice kids, many years ago one of my kids did bully someone. This was 9 years ago or so... and of course I was shocked, but I faced it head on and we talked about it in detail. Turns out they were mimicking something they saw in a PG movie geared towards kids, and they had just repeated/reenacted what they saw and they did it word for word.

Kids ARE WATCHING and learning from everything they see.

News Story:


Dan Amongst Men said...

I read this story too. I have a 9 year old boy who likes hello kitty, hair clips and anything sparkly. He has long hair and has been called a girl at school. He's pretty secure in himself but I still worry about how the comments will affect him. He hasn't hit the difficult puberty years yet.. I'm glad you wrote this post.

Mom of a bunch of great kids... said...

Thank you so much for commenting on this.