Thursday, October 1, 2009
Kindness and Bullying
One of my biggest fears in regards to my kids is when the day comes that we have to deal with bullying. I am a member of a local online community for moms and read stories of bullying. I watch Dr. Phil and Oprah and hear stories of bullying. I hear stories on the news- local and national. It's scary. I got bullied 3 times that I remember. All 3 times were in junior high. The first time there was a girl, A, and she decided she didn't like me. I had no clue why and still don't. She kept threatening me. So I told her to meet me in the park after school and said I'd fight her. She never showed and never bothered me again. The second time was a bit worse. Another girl, R, didn't like me. I don't think she liked anyone. The furthest it went was her following me home, taunting and teasing and threatening me the entire way. I walked in the door and broke down and told my mom what happened. She called the school immediately and there wasn't ever another issue. And finally- a couple of boys who taunted and teased. Nothing terribly serious but certainly cruel. I didn't go to the same high school as any of these kids so maybe that was why it didn't continue. But I did run into one of those boys in college and confronted him. He very sincerely apologized- which was good. But these days, bullying is much worse. And it seems that it isn't just the biggest boy in class threatening to beat you up if you don't hand over your Twinkie. It's groups of girls picking on the weakest link... it's violent and cruel. It's life destroying for fun, for laughs, for power and control. It's a whole new realm of meanness. Dr. Phil was all about bullying today and there were some things that really brought up that fear (girls talking about parents not taking action and just brushing off what was happening) and there were some things that gave me hope. I want you to know about the Kind Campaign. If you have daughters or know any teenage girls, go check out that site. They are in the process of making a documentary- currently traveling the country, collecting stories. Some of the stories already documented were shared on Dr. Phil today and were very touching- stories of being bullied and stories of being the bully (and hating herself for it). I want you to think about parenting and the parenting choices you make. How we parent our kids helps to determine what kind of choices they will make in the future. It's why I am so serious about this job. It's why I want to constantly be doing my best. There are studies showing the correlation between parenting style and bullying. Dr. Phil's son, Jay, has long been fighting the bullying battle. He's written books and he visits schools and does presentations and has kids take an anti-bullying pledge. Today, he spoke about parenting and raising kids who won't become bullies. How Parents Encourage Bullying: * Exercise absolute control over your kids. * Threaten the child with spanking or other violence. * Attempt to humiliate or embarass the child as a way to punish them. * Rule by fear. * Push competition & contest too much. * Teach that mistakes are unacceptable. * Tell your kids what to do, say, think. Humiliation, embarassment, violence, pain, control, fear. Are these words we ever want associated with parenting? With loving our kids? With teaching and growing our kids into the adults they are destined to become? Those are all words that I associate with bullying, cruelty, and a lack of creativity and empathy. Oct 4-10 is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week. What can you commit to doing to unite your community? And beyond that, what can you do to encourage kindness in your community, in your family, in your relationships? I think back to my BE vs DO post recently and I realize that one thing I always want to BE is kind. Even when I am disciplining my kids, I want to be kind. Firm and kind. I want my kids to grow up in a home filled with kindness- actionable love. I want them to witness Jeff and I being kind to each other. I want them to experience the kindness we give to them. I want them to practice the kindness they are taught. What experiences have you had with bullies? Were you bullied? Were you a bully? Have your kids been bullied? What has your experience been in dealing with your school to get help? What do you think the answers are to ending bullying, preventing bullying?