There are a number of reasons why children allow themselves to be bullied and children act out violently on other children. The number one reason is lack of self-confidence. As children we tend to believe what others tell us, partly because that’s how we learn, and partly because we haven’t yet discovered who we are, nor do we have the confidence to believe in who we are.
I think we’ve hit a wall with the common statement made about children. “Oh don’t worry (said with an unconscious wave of a hand)…they’re just kids having fun. They didn’t mean to hurt any feelings.” Ironically it is the children who are being bullied that are referred to as the ‘wimpy’ or ‘cowardly’ when, in all actuality, it is the bully who is the ‘coward’, lashing out and inflicting pain on others to hide their own fear and lack of confidence.
It seems a strange thing to say in light of another person’s pain. It sounds like denial. What parent wants to realize that their child has a mean streak and uses it to bully other children? That’s a horrible truth to stare in the face. Brutal even. On the flip side, what parent wants to believe that their child can’t handle ‘fun’ such as that? That’s just as horrible a realization because perhaps that reflects poorly on the parent and their parenting skills? Perhaps they didn’t coach the child properly to believe in himself/herself?
Now I’m not just talking about mild teasing here. I’m talking about the kind of ‘teasing’, (harassment really, perhaps even ritualistic if it’s on a daily basis) that children receive from their peers. I’m talking about constant teasing meant to disgrace, physical abuse meant to harm and inflict pain, and name-calling meant to humiliate.
And this isn’t about blame. Pointing a finger is a waste of our time. The fact is we need to face up to it if it’s an issue with our child. It isn’t just ‘having fun with other kids’ and it isn’t just ‘oh, it’s not that bad, he/she was only teasing you’. One child is hurting another child. He or she is leaving scars on that person. Maybe that sounds rather harsh, maybe even outrageous!
If you think it’s outrageous, think about this. How do you feel when an adult comes up to you and says, “Geez, you look like crap today? Did you find that outfit you’re wearing in your mother’s box of 70’s clothes or did you pick it out of the garbage bin in the alleyway?”. Now, of course, as adults, we have the logical mind to blow most of that off as ‘fluff’ and keep going.
We can reason that perhaps that other person is having a bad day and is venting it out on us. I’m sure we can come up with a handful of reasons why that person is in a foul mood. But think back to when you were a child. Did you think like that? Or did you just take in what that person said to you and hurt?
Let’s face it. For the most part children are trusting creatures. And why shouldn’t they be? Since their birth, they’ve been raised to believe that parents, adults, are going to take care of them. Watch over them. Protect them. Feed them. Clothe them. Give them everything that’s necessary to see to their happiness to the best of our ability.
We need to protect our children, both the bully and the bullied. The bully needs to be taught that it’s not okay to hurt another child, and the bullied child needs to be taught that what one person says about them does not make it truth and that it’s not okay that they are being hurt like this.
Let’s not forget that children grow up. These ‘bullies’ can only get away with their mistreatment of others for so long before it catches up with them. For the most part, adults don’t take abuse for long, if any at all. Most adults stand up for themselves.
So if we allow our children to bully other children, are we unconsciously teaching and preparing them to do this in adulthood? If we just shrug off their temper and ill regard for their peers, are we condoning their behaviors and confirming that what they are doing is okay? If we are, then we’ve got trouble on our hands.
If an adult said or did what some of these children are saying and doing to each other to another adult, in some cases it would be viewed as harassment. So what makes it right for one child to say it to another child if we as adults would never stand for it ourselves? Are we, as adults, so much better than children? Are children not entitled to the same protection on their person?
I was watching the local news recently. They were interviewing a 12-year-old boy and his mother. He was one of the ‘bullied’ and he had decided to speak up on how it affected him. I remember thinking how scared and nervous he looked sitting there while attempting to explain to the world as intelligibly as possible what was happening to him at school and why he considered it wrong.
I wondered if he realized, and I think he did, that when he left that news station he would be labeled as A) the hero or B) the fool. It all depended on who would be doing the labeling.
He would be a hero in the eyes of those suffering under the same predicament as he but he would be a fool in the eyes of those dishing it out. I wonder how he felt when he returned to school the following day. Was he treated differently? Was he treated worse or did it get better for him? I have no idea what the answer is, but I certainly hope that it was the latter.
When children feel the need to go on national television and share their pain, we know we have a problem.
When children start becoming violent, involving weapons that we as adults are not even supposed to use, something is very wrong. Are we taking it seriously?
Now is the time to stop this. In the wake of school shootings and violence that our children are beginning to experience with other children, we need to make some serious changes. We have children shooting other children. Children shooting teachers and other adults, I, myself, cannot believe it’s come to this.
So, instead of standing around and shaking our heads at the mess around us, let’s become more pro-active and start taking control of the situation. How do we do this?
1) We need to be teaching our children how to treat others.
2) It has to start in the home. It has to start with the parents.
3) It has to spread to the teachers, and any other adult presence that enters a young person’s life.
4) We need to empower our children to think wisely, and to tread carefully and compassionately where others are considered.
5) Most of all we need to be an example to them because they watch us all the time, even when we don’t think they care. They do.
Next time you see a child hit another child or call him/her a nasty name, don’t just shrug it off. Start now to protect those children from violence that can only hinder them in the future. We can do this, but we have to choose to first. After all, aren’t we the parents? Let’s start parenting then.Next time