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!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.