Before starting this post I went on amazon and typed in "bullying" in the subject line in a (feeble) attempt to find a book I read once. I didn't find the book - but try it - there are pages and pages of books with the topic. Have you seen this Ted talk of poet Shane Koyczan? Powerful, haunting stuff... There is no doubt that bullying is a serious issue.
Yesterday I read an article titled, "Is Your Daughter a Bully?" on the Huffington post. Again it is extremely powerful because of the emotion involved and this woman's painful experiences as a child. My heart aches for her.
Some of her solutions make sense to me, like having many (repeated) conversations with our kids about our values and living them out (I love this letter Glennon at Momaster wrote and that she shares at the beginning of every school year.) Others don't make sense to me, like getting "all up in her (your daughter's) business". Invading our children's privacy to monitor their every action and thought will hardly build healthy, trusting relationships. But this does leave a problem - none of us want to believe that our child is a bully - so how are we to know? Honestly, I don't know. In our present culture most parents are not with their kids the majority of the time, so there isn't really a way to know everything that is happening in our childrens' worlds. Homeschooling helps a lot of families but it is obviously not a cure-call. It's not as if everyone is going to pull their kids out of school tomorrow. I'm not pretending to have the answer here.
As parents we don't want our children to be victims of bullying, but I suspect the idea of our child BEING the bully is equally dread inducing. If bullying was put in the form of a bell curve we could imagine that the Bullies and the Bullied are the outliers - with the majority of kids falling in the middle (of course this is a gross simplification of matters too. Might there be some that fall in both ends of the spectrum? And of course there are those kids that are not actively participating but silently watching.) What are we to do as parents? Hold our breath and hope that our kids land in the middle of the bell curve - neither bullied nor bullying?
Love the pictures kids take when they get a hold of the camera. This is one that Gerry took yesterday. I love getting a new perspective. He's not worrie about getting a perfect angle or what's in the view (look at his cute little toes!). They point and shoot - often with awesome results. I'm placing my money on KIDS having the new perspectives we need to start getting to the root of our bullying problem.
My suspicion is that the causes of bullying run much deeper than many of us are willing to dig. And therefore the solutions are going to be much different that we think. Jennifer, at Our Muddy Boots wrote a great article to get us thinking, "Are We Bullying Our Children?" Clearly, she thinks that as a culture the answer to this question is a resounding YES, and I tend to agree with her. The issue is that we don't think of what we are doing to our children (starting almost immediately after birth) as bullying, we call it PARENTING. My heart aches writing that because I know it can be taken all sorts of ways - blaming parents being at the top of the list - which is not my intent.
What I do want to do is to make people - parents and non-parents alike - THINK. I'm not a psychologist or an expert. But I feel like it's fairly obvious that what is missing for most bullies is connection. When we feel good we treat people well and vice versa. So we need to really start examining our lives and choices - are we making choices that connect us or disconnect us?
My heart still aches thinking back on some of my own school experiences. I was neither a bully or bullied. And yet I had bouts of insecurity, days when I felt completely awkward, or when I was sure that I was wearing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, being the wrong person. And my most shameful memory is that when someone I loved and cared for was ostracized - for no good reason - and I did very little to stand up for her. Most of kids are going to fall into this category. So we need to lead the way - show them how to be brave and speak the difficult things out loud.
I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences. Please share in the comments here or over on Facebook. Let's start a conversation about this heart-breaking topic!
I think I got to the crux of my love/hate relationship with Facebook. (Ok, I don't really ever hate it. I only hate myself when I abuse it by neglecting other important aspects of my life. That's the truth right there. Don't hate the amazing tool - just use it wisely... Oh and of course I don't really HATE myself either - nope too busy loving myself over here in all my imperfection to do THAT!)
Anywho, where was I? Oh yeah, an analogy for Facebook. I realized that Facebook is like the WHOLE WORLD - and that's why I enjoy it so much! It contains SO MUCH - everything good, funny, clever, thought provoking, inspiring, life affirming - I can find it there in my newsfeed. (Of course because it contains everything it also contains lots of the other not so inspiring stuff - hateful, gossipy, brain-draining... you get the idea). So I was thinking - of course I can't consume the WHOLE WORLD right now (or ever) - but that's what I try to do by constantly checking in, reeling through my feed to make sure I've seen everything on it (even though of course there is a whole lot more out there NOT in my feed, pages I haven't liked, people I'm not friends with... I supposed this vast internet - connected to FB or not represents the whole UNIVERSE in this little analogy of mine.) The world contains so many things that I want to experience - but of course I can't experience them all today. And as the mother mostly in charge of guiding this family's ship (with input from all shipmates of course!), I have to be selective every day about what is right for us - do we need down time? (Today the answer is a resounding YES! Our new fall schedule seems to leave us exhausted by Friday...) Or do we need a new experience and adventure today? It's up to me as an individual to navigate the world in a way that is healthy for me.
And that is where I fall short sometimes in my ever-evolving relationship with Facebook. I sometimes (often?) consume mindlessly... because it feels good at first. (Here comes my second analogy, are you ready?!) I actually fall in the camp of people who believe Facebook is a pretty amazing tool - it can connect us to family in friends, inspire us, introduce us to new amazing resources, and on and on. So I thought today, in the vein of "consuming", that it's kind of like eating. And I wouldn't compare Facebook to candy (although I'm sure that there are people who would). I still maintain it can be "good for us" when used properly. Because even food that is "good for us" can be over consumed, can it not? And to continue eating when our stomachs are full and trying desperately to digest what we've already eaten is NOT good for us. Not to mention that we need to do other things besides eat - we need to use that energy for something!
Today I've already reached that point. I've consumed so much goodness from my feed that I'm full. Not only full but over-full - brain spinning, (yet full of cotton - needing some coffee!) and needing to process and get some things out before I come back for another serving.
What do you think? Can you relate to either analogy? How do *you* feel about Facebook and how you use it?
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
The following is an approximation of a conversation I had in the car with my daughter:
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.