Hello dear reader
I have struggled mightily with this article. I have stewed over the content, the format, the font size, the font color and whether or not to use English or Swahili. OK, mostly it has been content and format that I've pondered. What am I talking about you ask? Well, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen a post or tweet I made recently regarding mean spirited kids and the home-schooling option. It sparked quite the discussion, which I think was a very positive thing. In that discussion I promised to blog about it. So, after some debate with myself (I lost said debate), I am sort of ready to write. And here it is...my opinion.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. If you have had to say this to anyone, chances are you were saying it defensively. Chances are you had just been called something not very nice. Chances are you are the victim of bullying. In my humble opinion, bullying is running rampant through our society, through our schools, through our churches and through our homes. And that statement leads me to ask you the question "What do you consider bullying?" If your answer reflects the physical act of pushing, hitting or intimidating others, then I say you are barely right. Yes, bullying is a physical thing. But I firmly believe that physical bullying is on it's way out of society. Community leaders, educators, church leaders and parents have all been made aware of the danger of allowing physical bullying, and are very cognizant of it...if they see it happen, they do their best to stop it from happening. And trust me, this is a very good thing. Being bullied physically is a very hard thing to go through.
But now I ask you "How about verbal abuse?" If you reply with a 'Pfft", or 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me", then I've got news for you. Verbal abuse is the form of bullying that is much more damaging than physical. Verbal abuse is much harder to catch. Verbal abuse is much maligned as 'we're just teasing'. In our society, our schools, our churches and our homes, verbal bullying or abuse is almost 'chic'. If you're not teasing the 'weaker' kid, you're just not cool. You can't fit in with our crowd unless you help us make that boy cry, or get mad. If you're not with us, you're against us. Wow. Talk about pressure. Talk about being drawn into something that we may know is wrong, but our own sense of self-preservation forces us to give in and join in. Talk about wrong.
There are many questions I could ask at this point. Such as "What makes you better than that boy?" or,'What gives you the right to call that girl stupid?'. And those are just a couple questions I would ask the kids. How about the parents? I could ask questions of them as well. 'How are you educating your child(ren) at home about respecting other kids?' 'What sort of training mechanism do you have to steer your child(ren) clear of this behavior?' There are questions, but I'm not sure they are being asked. And if they are being asked, the answer is wrong.
Please don't get me wrong...I understand that there is a difference between friendly banter / mild teasing and verbal abuse. But, the line is very, very thin. What hurts me or my child may not hurt you or your child. And that line is what needs to be addressed. How do we define it? Can we come up with a clear definition of that line? A definition which community leaders, educators, parents and children all can understand, agree to and adhere to? Nope, I don't think we can. But I think we can teach awareness. We can empower the bullies to take a step back from their hate (yes, I call it hate for a reason). And we can provide the bullied the tools to deal with the drivel that spewed at them.
The education of bullies and bullied starts with us as parents. I need to teach my kids that calling someone names is unacceptable. But I need to teach this in a tangible fashion. It is not enough to tell them 'Don't call anyone mean things'. I'm sorry...that goes in one ear and out the other. I have recently been engaging in role plays with my kids. Not to the point where they get hurt by what I say, but so that they get the message. And I will continue to do this, because once or twice is not enough. It needs to be an on-going conversation with our kids. I also need to teach my kids how to handle the verbal abuse. Again, we have started to do some role play. I am trying to teach them to mentally throw the words in the garbage, and tell themselves the opposite. So, if someone calls you stupid, turn away, throw the word in the garbage and say 'I am not stupid, I am smart'. It is not the only method. It may not even work for my kids. But the key is that I have to try. And I have to continue to try.
I believe that our schools have done a good job in stamping out bullying. I don't think too many kids are getting beat up on the playground anymore. Nobody is punching a kid in the eye on the school bus. No, dear reader...it is much more subtle than that. And as much as we'd like to blame the school for not doing their job, I think we need to blame ourselves for not doing our jobs. There are many tools and programs available to deal with this...both from a bullies perspective and the bullied perspective. But it starts with you and me as parents. Teach your children. Educate them. Empower them. How many of our children have to feel the ravaging effects of depression before we catch on? Do any of our children have to take their own lives before we as parents learn? Think it won't happen? Take off your rose colored glasses. We live in a sinful world. There is no Utopia. There is no perfection. Pay attention to your children's behaviour. Is he or she a bully? Is he or she being bullied? If so, we need to converse among ourselves as parents. We need to work together to stamp it out. We need to love our children.
I could say much more, dear reader. I have some very strong opinions on this subject. And maybe some day I will write more about it as I learn more about it. You may disagree with me, you may agree with me. That is your right. But please, don't abuse me because of what I am, or what I believe, or what I write. Sticks and stones will break my bones...and words will quite often hurt me.
PS: I'd love to interact with you on this article. The comment section is open. I moderate it, and need to approve every comment. But, if the comment is relevant (whether in agreement or disagreement), I will publish it. And I hope to interact with every comment. Keeping up the dialogue is important. Let's work together. FF