There is much in the news lately about children being bullied, and being bullied to the extent that they kill themselves. Recently, a young girl in Florida had been bullied in person and on-line, being targeted by at least two girls, one a former friend. After this young lady had taken this abuse for a year, she felt no recourse but to kill herself, which she did. The two main aggressors were found to be making disparaging remarks on Facebook and showed no remorse about the girl that they had relentlessly targeted. They were arrested and now their lawyers are doing everything they can to keep them from facing the consequences of their actions.
Another incident has also been in the news. An article found on Fox Sports online described a football team which had won 91-0 over another team. A parent for the losing team decided this was bullying and brought suit against the winning coach and school. This is “helicopter parenting” at its worst, more dangerous then just whining about the loss, and possibly precedent setting for future losses. This parent took what could have been a teachable moment, “sometimes we go up against daunting foes or odds in life, and there is honor in trying. Not quitting.” and is attempting to use it to punish a team who did nothing but their best. After reading the article, it was evident that the coach did what he could to lessen the score by putting in third string players, running the clock, etc., but did not quit. The opposing team coach understood and apparently saw this as fair. Good sportsmanship was displayed, except by parents.
“We have forgotten that kids do what they see, not what we say. And they see us as being unrelentingly mean in rhetoric and actions to gays, fat people, and people who think and look and act differently than ourselves. So, they go to school and do likewise, physically and verbally assaulting classmates for sport. This is bullying and kids keep dying because awareness and lectures, and online bullying complaint forms do not solve the problem at all.” Changing your Facebook status to show that you are against bullying is a waste of time if you are not setting the example yourself.
So, where have we failed our kids? And yes, many parents are failing. It means that you should be having hard conversations with your kids about a lop-sided loss or the transfer student being picked on. It means teaching responsibility and not blame, and most of all, demonstrating that which you say you want to see in your child by teaching them compassion and good will. Listen to your own conversations and catch yourself being judgemental and mean, showing glee over besting someone in a deal or cheating someone, or being thinner, richer, prettier, or smarter than someone else and thinking you are better than they are because of it.
Remember, parents are their child’s first teacher. They will copy what you say and do, and learn most of their life lessons from you. So think. What are you teaching?
For more reading about bullying, stop at your local library in Vineland or Millville. They have a great selection of books on Child Development and many children’s books about bullying.