I imagine that every adult can think back to a time when someone said something really mean and hurtful to them. Likely you’ll have a flash back of being picked last during P.E. class or a classmate whispering an untrue rumor throughout the halls. Maybe you’ll think of that massive zit that conveniently popped up on picture day and landed right on page 54 of your high school yearbook for all of the school to laugh at for eternity. Or maybe you’ll think back to last week when you overheard some ladies in your Zumba class laughing about how your arms jiggle when you’re doing the dance moves. Whether your experience was yesterday or 25 years ago, it was uncalled for. We can’t accept this anymore!
We are living in a time when adults act like we might expect children to. I think at some point, we as a nation forgot to teach the “treat others as you wish to be treated” lesson. Maybe that happened with the push of standardized testing. School officials might have decided that that lesson certainly wouldn’t be tested so there was no need to teach it. Maybe the issue started at home and we’re just so busy we forget to teach our kids this important lesson. I don’t know the reason, but I do believe it’s sending our society down a long road of hatefulness and lack of respect for mankind.
Bullying is a topic that we constantly hear about. It’s almost impossible to watch the nightly news without hearing another story of a child who just couldn’t take it anymore. These stories usually tell of years of peer abuse for sexual orientation, weight, race, etc. My heart aches each time I hear another one of these stories. The question that always weighs on my mind is, “Why do our kids believe this sort of taunting is ok?” Each time, I always come back to the same answer, “Because we are teaching them that it is!”
Ok, so most parents wouldn’t say, “Bullying is a great thing!” But there is so much more to teaching our children than just direct verbal communication. They are watching and they are listening. They see you glancing over the checkout lines looking for any way to avoid the cashier who is just a little too flamboyant for your taste. They hear you snicker with your best friend about how big the PTA president’s thighs have gotten. This sends the message that it’s ok to treat other people in a negative way if you have a negative thought about them. We need to be sure that our children understand that everyone can have a negative thought; that does not mean we act on them. We are not held responsible for what we think, but we are held responsible for how we act.
Unfortunately, bullying is not just a childhood “disease.” Many adults face taunting every day at the hands of other adults. This baffles me. It is by no means acceptable for children to bully other children, but I think we could at least argue that their immature frontal lobes haven’t fully developed and maybe that might make it more reasonable. When adults bully, we can’t even make that argument. There is no excuse. There is only hatred. I’m going to state the obvious and say that when our children see us blatantly bullying others, this screams, “It’s ok to hurt others for a laugh or to make yourself feel good.” But it’s not! It’s really not okay!
Before you act on your prejudices and judgmental thoughts, I encourage you to ask yourself if what you are about to do is worth ruining someone else’s day. We are all capable of experiencing mental pain. We all have. Try to think back on a time when you’ve been hurt and remind yourself that you’d never want another person to experience that sort of pain. In fact, when you’re about to make a harsh remark or act in a negative way, then do the complete opposite. Instead say something nice or do something thoughtful for that person. That’s how we’re going to put this disease into remission and that’s the behavior we want our kids to imitate. When you do good unto others, know that little ears are listening then, too. They are learning from the negative you do and the positive. What lessons do you want to teach?