Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why do we even have to have this talk?

The above video is AWESOME. This is how to call out a bully guys. Watch and learn.

Today, I am talking to all adults who have interaction with children, be they parents or otherwise. Because we have a job to do and clearly, a lot of you out there are failing.

Yes. I said it. You are failing.

And don't get all high and mighty on me because I don't have kids. Get that notion out of your head because it's an excuse not to listen to things that you don't like or that hurt your feelings. Nobody likes to hear they're failing their kids. I get that. But wouldn't you want someone to tell you? Would you really prefer to keep your head down and dig that hole deeper and deeper?

Thank you for being brave enough to continue reading this far if you haven't run screaming. You rock.

Bullying is bullshit folks. It's not okay, it's gone too far. It's long past time we - and I do mean all adults who influence or love children including teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins etc. - have a responsibility to stop it.
How many people does it take to stop it?
As many as it takes.
Every individual has the right to speak for themselves. When a message is repeated often enough, it eventually folds its way in until we can't see where the lines were drawn anymore. It becomes a permanent part of the fabric of our society.

If you want to stop bullying, start at home. I cannot stress this enough - whatever your kids see you do, they are going to assume it is okay for them to do. They will use your words to hurt others. Others who may not be able to handle it. Because they have been taught by the adults in their lives how to go for the jugular.

GONE are the days of "kids will be kids". Sorry ya'll, our society has reduced the length and depth of childhood to a charred shell of what it once was. Kids are no longer innocent. We have taken that away from them by exposing them to a world of social media they cannot handle responsibly without actual, intense guidance and proper modeling behavior from you. It has become simply too easy for a child to hold onto something that bothered them during the day and turn it into Cyber Bullying at night.

Remember back in the olden days when we would go to school and then go home and be with our families until we would wake again the next day and go see our classmates? When weekends belonged to the family or particular friends we wanted to spend time with the most? When home was a safe place? When if you were the object of bullying you were able to escape?

By the addition of Face Book and Twitter and Tumblr and the whole internet in general, we have removed the boundary between work/school life and everything else. As a kid who was shy and introverted, school was a challenge for me every day. Going home at the end of the day was a rewarding escape from school - where recess was the thing I hated the most. Being away from girls who were fake friends or boys who were simply baffling was what kept me sane. I dealt with those people all day, going home to go to my piano lesson and watching some TV with the fam was private, uninterrupted time. I didn't have to worry about someone texting me cruel messages or putting up horrible things on Facebook about me. It was a truly separate existence.

There is no escape anymore. Your home has become an extension of the blacktop battleground and the bullies are just a mouse click away. An incident that was annoying at school no longer has the opportunity of fading organically and being let go. Instead it becomes the topic of the day and everybody weighs in - bullies first and foremost. Let's say Little Johnny has a tough day at school, he's shy and although he has friends, he is quiet and focused on his school work. One day he is staring off into space when another student, Meanie Pants, notices and points him out. "Ooh! Johnny stop staring at Jack that way! You're gaaaayyyy!!!"

Um, where did that kid learn that from? Other kids? Maybe. But where did he learn to ruthlessly ridicule a peer that way? Why is the word "gay" the first thing he goes for? Sorry folks, you are caught out. He learned it while in your care. By the way, thanks for getting him that smart phone. Now he can make "Johnny is gaaaay!" his Facebook status in a nanosecond. Next nanosecond, Meanie Pants has texted his entire contact list about Johnny being gaaay. And Little Johnny has no idea what to do with that. In the space of six seconds his life has been ruined. His friends are afraid to be seen with him lest they be the target next time.

Here's an idea. Adults - stop playing with your phone and pay attention to your kids. Teach them how to have a conversation that includes eye contact. That the world does not and should not revolve around them. Teach them it is vitally important to THINK before they speak, or post. Teach them that their words matter and when they are used to hurt another person, there are consequences.

Your kid should not be using a cell phone while in school. The excuse of, "What if I need to get a hold of them?" Makes me want to punch you.  I went through my entire life without my mommy texting me while I was at school and that includes college and grad school. I was picked on, bad things happened, my feelings were hurt and it was awful sometimes. But I dealt with it.

That's right folks, I DEALT WITH IT. On my own. So when I sit down at the computer I have a lifetime of life lessons to keep me grounded. Your kids are not developing this resource inside themselves. They are learning to lash out first, ask questions later.

They are learning this from you - the adults in their lives. If you are in a position of any power kids are watching and learning from you. If you call someone "fat" or "gay" or any other choice name, your kids will think that is okay. They won't admit that to you, but that's what they believe. You can tell them until you're blue in the face not to do that. But...if you're doing are they. It no longer becomes a conscious decision for them, you have taken the decision out of their hands. You have taught them this is how we react to people if we don't like what they have to say or if we just don't like them.

Your words matter but your actions matter more. Here's a crazy idea, talk to your kids about the critical importance of kindness. Teach them by showing them how to do it. Say "Thank You" to all retail service people. The cashiers, waitresses, dude who showed you where the lightbulbs are, whatever. Model for your children that no one is better than anyone else. That all people regardless of looks, smarts, charisma, or money must be treated with respect up front. There is no power struggle when the expectation is clearly demonstrated each and every time. If the cashier is rude, even better. Model for your children how to deal with rudeness without becoming cruel. I was taught to kill them with kindness. This means I smile through it while my blood is boiling. When I would like nothing better than to tell the rude cashier to suck it, I remind myself that I am better than that.

You and your kids are better than that too. Step it up folks. Get tough. Don't give in when the kids have a fit about you going through their phone or having their Facebook pass words. You are doing your job and secretly, your kids are relieved.

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