Bullying is something that countless generations have been coping with since the dawns of time. No matter where you grew up, how old you are now or how many friends you did or didn't have growing up, you were picked on at some point by someone. Some worse than others, but it still stung. Bullying or being picked on has always been a reality, especially for kids. Everyone's parents embedded a few simple phrases into our minds that I'm sure stuck with everyone else, just as they did with me! Some of which I'm sure could've been created decades, or possibly even centuries ago and passed on down the line of generation after generation. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” or “pick on someone your own size” or the most common one that I use with my kids “If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!”
Nowadays the term “Bullying” is something many parents and schools take very seriously. Much more so than when we were younger, because it has escalated to unprecedented situations. In my opinion, I feel that this generation (and the generations to come) are more likely to experience or witness bullying because it's much more difficult to escape the than it was for us. At least when we were younger we had a bit of a reprieve from those less than kind classmates when we weren't at school. Durning school vacations, weekends or holidays the only time we saw our classmates and friends was if you lived in the same neighborhood and saw them outside, they were invited over to your house or you to theirs (I'm not sure about you, but I certainly never invited anyone who was unkind to me over to my house). Now, kids are virtually connected twenty-four hours a day seven days per week! With the technology our kids have access too, they are more prone to the things that we could escape because they can't escape them. Unfortunately, with things like social media and cellphones, they almost never have the choice to simply not invite their nemesis over to play during vacation. They will run into them with technology, even if they simply stay home, and it could become a public humiliation over having someone embarrass you in the hallway at school.
We won't ever be able to completely eradicate this problem, unfortunately. However, I do think there are things that we can do as parents, educators, and mentors to teach our kids that these types of behaviors are not okay. I think most of us do a good job at setting the foundation when our kids are younger that it's not nice to be mean to other kids. But do we continue to teach them this as they get older, when things like peer pressure are a huge factor? I'm sure some do, I'm sure some don't. I know I spent more time on the “be nice” topic when my kids were younger than I do now that they are teens and preteens. The point is that the teaching never ends, from five to twelve to sixteen our kids are still learning. The older they get, the more detrimental our guidance becomes because the older they get the more they have to think for themselves. It's up to them to make the decision, not us.
I recently watched a Netflix series called “13 Reasons Why”, some of you may have heard of it, some of you may not. To sum it up, the main character creates a series of audio tapes where she explains the “13 reasons” why she committed suicide, as a result of bullying (to simply add, there should never be a reason why anyone feels there's a reason to take their own life, but I viewed the purpose of the storyline as a way to depict how greatly some situations both minor and major can affect teens/preteens because this can and does happen, sadly). The tapes are passed off from one guilty classmate to the next, as they each listen to their and others tapes, where she describes the reasons they each impacted her in such a devastating and profound way. Only the classmates featured on the tapes are given the opportunity to listen. I would certainly not recommend letting your younger children watch this (unless they are of a mature age) as it contains some quite graphic situations and other behaviors that you wouldn't want your younger children to see. However, the reason I'm bringing this series up is that I realized sometimes a bully can be a bully and not even realize it. Because I'm writing this in the “parent to parent” voice, I'll keep my mixed reviews of the series itself off the table, but I will say that it made me realize that there was a common denominator in each of the fictional situations in this series. Although the situations were again fictional, I think that the common reaction wasn't. Every parent's reaction in this series was the same, their teen was innocent and did nothing wrong, they felt it was just impossibly ridiculous and never believed their child could be capable of such acts. But being the viewer, you knew they were guilty because you are watching scenes the parent isn't part of.
How many times have you gotten a report from school or daycare etc. about your child that left you saying to yourself “there's no way, my kid didn't do that, there's just no way, he's not like that“. Whatever the report may be, you knew it was out of character for your child, so you brushed it off as impossible. I know I've said that to myself many times. As parents, I think sometimes we neglect to see that our kids are just like everybody else's. They all act differently when they are with their friends, and without adult supervision. What if it was your child who was the bad influence? Would you believe it? I know I would have a hard time believing that any of my kids could be the one responsible for bad decisions that others were following along with. The takeaway, I believe if more parents realized that their kids are just like everyone else's and that they can and will do things you wouldn't expect them to do is very real. If we acknowledge the possibility that our kids could be guilty of something we least expect, then maybe we could be more prepared to implement a plan to guide them to make better decisions. By failing to see that it's possible, nothing will be rectified and they learn zilch.
In closing, of course, we all want and expect that it will never be our kids that were the cause of a situation that hurts another person emotionally, hopefully, it's not. But, if we think outside the box and realize that they very well may be responsible, then there's the opportunity to correct it, and stop it from continuing. All this means for us is that we continue to guide and teach them so that when they are faced with adversity they will know to respond how they feel is right instead of how their friends may be encouraging them to. Peer pressure is something that all of my kids are faced with today being teens and preteens, so I'm diligently working on training myself to stop immediately defending them if I get an out of character report about one of them (not just bullying, across the board really), so that I can give them to tools to make better decisions and not make bad ones that could follow them around. Every decision they make today could bring a consequence for the future. As they grow into teens and preteens, keeping the lines of communication open and flowing is more important than it ever has been!