In order for society to change and grow for the better, we have to make a conscious effort to teach our children to be better than we were.
Seeing this short video about bullying really hit home for me. As a mother of 2, I have heard these things from my own children. At their current school, both my kids, who are only 6 and 9, have had to deal with bullies. The bus is the most prevalent place for bullying behavior. I am lucky enough that I was able to take them off the bus route and drive them to and from school myself, but many parents do not have the option. As we prepare for our move and the changing of schools, I can only hope that things are different at the new school. Unfortunately, bullying is a problem everywhere, and hiding your head in the sand or spouting platitudes like “kids will be kids” is bullshit. We as parents, educators, administrators and community members should realize that we have the power to change this behavior. A parent should never say “I got through it ok, so will they” or “It worked fine for me, it’ll work fine for them”. We as parents have a responsibility to our children to do what we can to make them better than us. We should strive to not only give them a better life, but to guide them to becoming better people.
My kids transferred to a new school this year. We were thinking it would be very temporary as we were in the process of buying a house in a different neighborhood. That was a short sale deal, which after months of waiting, fell through. Finally, we found a new house that we now own and are moving into very shortly. In the meantime, my kids had to adjust to a new school. Previously, they were at a private school. A very diverse private school, but one in which my kids were not introduced to the topic of racism. I do know that some of the older grades had bullying problems, and every so often my daughter would have a child say something mean to her, but overall they were very lucky to have a lot of friends and very little troubles. This year changed drastically for them. I know there is this belief that white kids have all the advantages and nothing to worry about, but they are in the extreme minority at this school, and as such, have to deal with bullying because they are white. We have always taught our children that people are people and have had open and honest discourse with them, answering their questions and teaching them to look at who a person is on the inside and not the outside. This year has challenged us greatly. They are dealing with racism directed toward them, kids are pushing them, calling them names, making fun of them and they are both having troubles making friends. When we talk about the move to the new house and a new school, the relief in my kids’ eyes is heartbreaking. I never wanted them to have this pain.
There have been good things about the change as well, I won’t say that nothing good came out of it. They have realized that there are people with a lot less than they have and the things they have are a gift not to be taken for granted. My daughter has learned empathy in a way she never had to before. The most touching story I can think of to illustrate that is the day she came home and told me a bout a child in her class who was having emotional outbursts. The boy was not mean to her, or anyone in particular, but he would get angry and yell about how he hated the school (he was also a new boy to the school this year). She told me about him and how he was a trouble maker and she didn’t think she could be friends with someone like that. We had a long talk about people in different situations then her, a home life that might not be very happy, a problem that caused the move, trouble making friends, and trying to get to know the boy. As the introspective child that she is, she mulled this over and made an effort to talk to the boy and get to know him. They are now great friends, and I don’t doubt that he has helped her just as she helped him.
These are the kinds of behavior we should encourage in our children. Empathy, understanding, friendship, compassion. We should not encourage our children to carry on our own prejudices or our bad behaviors. Yes, kids can be jerks, but if a kid is being a jerk, it’s most likely because the child’s parents are even bigger ones. This is learned behavior. My kids are geeky, silly and fun kids because that is the behavior they see from their parents. The older they get, the more they develop their own personalities and make their own decisions, but what I do around my kids when they are young influences their behavior, ideas and beliefs. I am trying to give them a foundation they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I try to teach them to be strong and stand up for themselves when needed, but overall I try to teach them to be better. Better than me, better than their dad, better than all of the grown-ups out there set in their ways pining for bygone eras, forgetting that we have seen society shift overall for the better. If society doesn’t evolve and grow, it fails. If we backtrack, we fail. Making bullying a topic that is talked about in schools, at home, everywhere, should not be scoffed at by anyone. We should be outraged, all of us, that this behavior happens and we should realize the lifelong pain a person can hold with them from being bullied as a child. We should realize that children really are our future and by teaching them to be better, we in turn become better people ourselves. As much as I want to keep my kids in a bubble and protect them from all the bad things in the world, to shield them from pain and hurt and sadness, I can’t. My job is to teach them so that they can become their own person and make their own decisions. There will come a day when I just have to hope that I did a good enough job teaching them empathy, compassion, understanding, strength, and critical thinking so that they can make wise, informed decisions that will influence the direction their lives take and influence the lives of those around them for the better. And that is all any of us can hope for really; hope that we did enough to teach our children to be good people and hope that they don’t get hurt by those that didn’t bother. So please people, bother. Bother to teach your kids, to influence them with positive behavior and help them grow up to be worth a damn. That’s not too much to ask for is it?