I’ve written a couple of different blog posts about bullying … one explaining my take on the situation and another one showing how I’ve tried to deal with it in the past. In both of them I talked a lot about building our kids up so that bullies don’t have to power to take them down. I still wholeheartedly believe in that but I think it’s time that we as a society stand up and take responsibility for our part in perpetuating this insanity. Children look to us to lead them and guide them. They copy what we do. We are their guides and leaders. We need to take that more seriously. Now.
I’m thankful that people are finally really acknowledging bullying and the horrific ramifications that it brings about. What makes me sick is that it took the death of a young girl to make people take notice. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first death as a result of bullying. We should’ve taken better notice a long, long time ago. My hope is that these same people who have jumped on the “bullying is bad bandwagon” will actually do something to make a change and not just use this event as a way to make themselves look righteous. Please let that be what happens.
If you want bullying to stop, we as a society need to stop bullying. Stop telling and laughing at fat jokes. Quit pointing out “gingers” and making ignorant comments about them. Stop commenting on buck teeth, freckles, greasy hair, pimples, etc, etc. Quit pointing out the faults of everyone around you and/or laughing along when someone makes ignorant remarks. Next time you get the urge to call someone fat or ugly, picture your daughters face on their shoulders. Not so appealing now is it? Grow Up.
Don’t post on Facebook how upset you are by bullying and how awful it is, and then go and post ignorant “jokes” or pictures. Don’t say that bullying is terrible and then start all of your sentences with “I don’t mean to be rude”, or “no offense”. Don’t shove people out of your way in the grocery store, don’t butt in line, don’t belittle people in lower positions than you. Be respectful. Be polite. Be a decent human being.
When your children make ignorant comments about peers or people in their world. Correct them. When they tell inappropriate jokes. Correct them. When they comment that someone is poor or stupid or ugly. Correct them. Please don’t agree or laugh with them. You are their example. When the opportunity to teach your children arises, use it. Talk about how we’re all different and that it’s okay. Discuss how some people look different because they can’t help it. Teach them about money, and how not every has as much or has more than your family. Explain to them why they’re being corrected. They’ll get it sooner than you think, and their bad habits will be replaced with kind and compassionate ones.
Really teach your kids their worth. No one should ever think that they need to lift their shirt and bare their breasts to make someone like them. Teach them that they don’t need the approval of others to be valuable. Show them that they don’t need to be “sexy” to get attention. Teach them that the number of friends they have on Facebook or the numbers of TBH’s they participate in, is in no way reflective of their value. Kids need to be built up and reminded DAILY of how awesome they are. If they are getting approval and encouragement at home, they’re not going to seek it out everywhere they go. Kids still want to fit in and belong, that’s never going to change. But if they feel secure and “know” their worth, it’ll be a lot tougher for someone else to take advantage of them or beat them down. Period.
Teach your children that they don’t need to share every little piece of themselves with others. Facebook , Instagram and Twitter are not diaries. Pictures and words are forever, help them understand that. Talk to them about online predators, and REALLY talk to them. If you’re going to allow your children to use social media, take the time to figure out how it works. Learn what texting shortcuts mean. Never assume that your child is smart enough to know when they’re being lied to or scammed. And on the flip-side, don’t assume that your child would never behave inappropriately online. Kids that are normally shy or quiet will quite often open-up online because it’s so anonymous. They can hide behind a fake persona and become anything their minds can imagine.
Consider setting up a “fake account” with a picture of someone cute. Pretend to attend another local school, pick common “likes” to your kids – food, sports teams, video games. Then send your child a friend request and see what happens. If they don’t initially accept it, try again. Add a note to your request saying something like, “we used to play ball together” or whatever. Once they befriend you, starting asking questions. Will they give you pictures when asked for them? Will they tell you where they go to school, share their phone number, address, etc, etc? If you invite them to an awesome party, will they agree to go? Maybe your kids will surprise you and will never accept your request but if they do, use this to show them just how easy it was to get them talking. Predators do this EVERY DAY.
We need to change what is normal. And what is expected. Children aren’t sexy. Physical appearance doesn’t determine your worth. Money does not equal power. Domestic Violence is not cool and should not be ignored. Movie stars, pop icons and their lifestyles are not reality. Please figure out a way to help your children see that and believe it. We need to set higher standards for our children and ourselves. Stop accepting wrong behaviour as normal.
Frankly, we as adults also need to recognize the power that we have. Our words bite just as much as those of a teenager. We are just older and “smarter” and a little bit braver. We somehow find ways to justify our behaviour because we “know” that we’re right. We’re educated, churched and have lots of life experience. Quit mistaking those things as “rights to abuse or bully”.
Politics, religion, ideals and opinions will always be fodder for bashing. Instead of joining in on the bandwagon of crazy behaviour, listen. Hear what people have to say, and then agree or disagree. If you have a concern or you don’t understand something, ask about it. So many of our “fights” are a result of mis-information or blatant gossip. Before you make a judgement, make sure you have all the facts. Agree or Not, doesn’t really matter. Your response is what’s important. Hatred should never be an option.
Bullying is a horrible, horrible thing but it’s just a symptom of something bigger. As we all move forward, working towards change, please think of this one simple word. Respect. Respect for yourself, and respect for the people around you. If we could all just focus on that, the world would be a much happier and safer place.