I'm angry. I know it can be dangerous to write when angry. I also know that some of my best thinking and doing starts when I write while angry.
I was listening to The Bert Show this week on my drive in to work- as I almost always do. The discussion was on the documentary "Bully" that releases this weekend. You know I am going to see this movie at some point. Readers of my blog know that we have dealt with bullying in a way that most people aren't so open about, I suppose. I've been very honest and open here on the blog about our experiences with our daughter being the bully. (If you're new here- I suggest clicking that link and you will see all the posts where I have shared about our experiences with our child being a bully.)
Here's where I get angry. The radio show was taking calls and they had some experts in the studio. They were talking with kids who witness bullying or who are bullied. Facebook blew up with comments and the conversation took the turn it always does- to blame the parents of the bully. This morning, as a follow up to one of the more heart wrenching calls from the previous day, one of the hosts full on stated that bullies have bad home situations. One of the hosts stated that he wants bullies to hear the call from the girl who was a tortured victim of bullying and he wants them to feel shame for what they've done if they are a bully in their own school.
First quick thought was- yes, they should feel something when hearing this little girl crying on the radio about how she's been bullied for 5 years. Second quick thought was- but it shouldn't be shame that we focus on. It should be that if you are a bully and you hear that call and on the inside, you are feeling bad for her and you are recognizing that the choices you make in your peer environment could be impacting someone in the same way, you are feeling something appropriate and should be encouraged to act on it. Not encouraged to feel more shame. Because one thing I do believe to be true is that the majority of bullies suffer low self esteem and are already feeling shame and beating themselves up.
Then the comment about the home life of bullies was made and I blew up in my car.
I tried to call in but they had moved on to another topic and it was suggested that I leave a comment on Facebook. Which I did. But having my blog as my platform is far more satisfying. And I can say more.
I got to work and posted on Facebook my thoughts. And then began to see the comments from other listeners and their opinions of the parents of kids who bully and I had that heart-sinking- punch in the gut feeling that I had when I first heard that my daughter was bullying other kids. I wanted to message each of these people and tell them that my husband and I are GREAT PARENTS and we LOVE our kids like crazy and our home life is fun but also disciplined but not abusive or overly strict or cruel. That my kids are the focus of our family and are not neglected or abused.
And I thought about blurring out the names- but these folks posted on The Bert Show's Facebook page so it's easy to find their names anyway.
I get that there are situations where parents will disregard their child's mean choices. I get it that there are homes where kids are being abused or are growing up with "rough" parents who teach them to be tough.
But I want the message loud and clear- that isn't the situation with every bully. That isn't the home life of every mean child.
Yesterday, The Queen of Free and her husband celebrated the freedom from the last of their debt with a spot on The Dave Ramsey Show. One thing that the King of Free stated and has really stayed with me is that "The death of communication is the birth of resentment."
If your child comes home and tells you that my child said terribly cruel things to her, please find a way to contact me. Send me an email, contact the teacher, call me. Please don't assume that my husband beats my daughter or that I am emotionally cruel to my child. Please don't assume that my daughter is in a wretched home situation. Please don't assume that she has parents who are disengaged or don't care about her.
Instead, please consider that she has parents at home who are aware of the problem but aren't aware that it has happened again. Please consider reaching out so that we have the opportunity to correct the problem with our child. If you are going to assume anything, please assume that my child has engage and passionate parents. Maybe you've reached out to other parents with issues before and been disregarded or put down. But please don't stop trying. Because at some point you might find me at the other end or you might find another parent like me- one who is trying to work through this behavior problem on a consistent and ongoing basis.
And here's a shocking idea. Let's say the school does know that the response from the parents won't help. Or maybe you reach out and you do discover that the kid is in a difficult home situation. Does that mean you just brush it off? Does that mean you don't take action? Holy crap! If I know a kid who is in a tough home situation... who has parents making dumb, selfish choices or who has a parent who pushes them too hard... you know that situations where the kid feels out of control or the kid feels worthless... I can't imagine turning my back. I know that not every situation can be turned over to the authorities and not every situation can be helped by school administration. And if my kid is the one getting picked on, I know that I will be angry with that other child. But I also know that if I am aware of a kid in a hurting place, I do what is within my power to do to show them that they are valuable and they are loved. Even if it is as small as looking them in the eye with a smile and a hello, giving them a hug when appropriate, taking time to sit and talk, and maybe even being there for them to talk to when the moment presents itself.
I'm starting to get scattered with my thoughts. It's a big subject. And maybe it's something I should focus on and write about in more detail at some point. But like I said- right now, I'm angry. Right now, I want to defend myself.
My child has the capability to be a cruel bully, a true mean girl. My child also has the capability to be incredibly thoughtful, empathetic, and compassionate. My child is funny and charming and smart- and can also be manipulative and verbally slay other kids without being detected by adults.
My husband and I are parents who love our children. We are focused on raising them to be compassionate, caring, generous individuals. We believe that our kids have great things to do in this world. Finding out that our child had the ability to be so cruel to others turned our world upside down- I cried and cried. I questioned everything I had done to that point as a parent. I wondered if I was too hard on her or if my expectations were too high or if I was too soft on her or if I was just plain doing everything wrong. Eventually, we figured out that there were reasons for the things we were seeing. Now, almost 2 years into our school experience, we know that this is an aspect of her personality that can be honed into something positive or, if left unattended, will run rampant and create a truly cruel teenager.
So we work on it. We try our best. We address is consistently every time it comes up. All I ask is that if your child encounters a bully, please consider that the parents of the bully are more like you than you may want to admit.