We’re all very familiar with the bullying that takes place among youngsters. These days it’s even taken to cyberspace…big time! Short of throwing the computer out the window, I’ve little advice to offer parents who are dealing with this recent phenomenon.
Perhaps if we backtracked a little however, we might do a little preventative work towards laying a better foundation to help alleviate bullying.
It amazes me when adults work themselves into a dither over children being bullied by other children. I often think…well, how about the bullying that goes on day in and day out among adults? Did we pass some kind of hazing threshold which now permits us to have at it? Or have the years worn us down so that we could care less if we overflow onto one another? Good manners be damned?
My own experiences with bullying have left me with an assortment of thoughts on the subject.
As the youngest I was an easy target for bullying by my older siblings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hide behind the Catholic church’s teachings commanding us to love one another.
For some reason, society doesn’t point its collective finger at the family when it comes to bullying. We’ve come to accept that the older children are just naturally given to mistreating their younger brothers and sisters, if they’re so inclined. Perhaps it’s deemed a lesson in survival. Or it might be that parents are either too overwhelmed or too clueless to manage the ongoing spats of their offspring. Easier to let them settle things themselves.
Yes, lessons are good. However the downside of bullying within a family is that it often creates enmity. Loving one another is a given, especially when tragedy strikes. Liking one another is a whole other thing. And it’s the liking that allows us to coexist in harmony for more than a holiday dinner or a wedding celebration or attendance at a funeral.
Where do children learn the art of bullying? I would suggest that the primary source is the example their parents set. If a father bullies a mother or vice versa, such behavior goes a long way in convincing youngsters that bullying is okay. If parents didn’t engage in bullying and condemned such behavior in others, it would follow that children wouldn’t succumb to something of which their parents disapproved.
I understand that raising children not to bully is complicated by outside forces over which we have little or no control. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be a good beginning to lay down some ground rules within the family so that bullying might not find fertile ground upon which to take hold, grow, thrive, and spread?
Paralleling the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God, family members might be commanded to…
- Love one another as you love your own self.
- Treat one another as you would want to be treated.
- Before lashing out with unkind words or gestures, have a discussion with yourself to weigh the pros and cons. Seek guidance from someone whose counsel you respect.
- If #3 doesn’t work for you…count to 100…or 1,000…or 5,000…whatever it takes to calm yourself down.
- If neither #3 or #4 work, go for a walk in the great outdoors where the sights, sounds, and smells might have a calming effect upon you.
- Get to know one another…your likes…your dislikes…your vulnerabilities…your passions. You do this with friends. Why not with siblings? Are they that alien to you?
- Put yourself in one another’s shoes, figuratively-speaking. What’s it like to be dad with his financial worries? Or mom who’s always stressed with so much to do? What’s it like to be the eldest missing the attention once reserved only for him or her? Or the youngest who feels left out, left behind? Is it true that middle children feel as though they’re invisible?
- Compliment one another. If doing so makes a complete stranger’s day, like the waiter or the barista, think what it can do for your own family member? Tell mom she’s a great cook…often! Congratulate your sister on her excellent grades.
- Tell one another “I love you” every day. You never know if it’ll be the last time you get to say it.
- Respect one another…and yourself. If you have a legitimate gripe, speak up. And be sure you allow others to have their say as well.
I would offer one more suggestion.
Families should refrain from gossiping about one another…to one another. Doing so only breeds ill-will. I know. It happened in my own family, creating untold and unresolved disruptions to relationships that will probably never be rectified. Better to vent to good friends who have no personal stake in the matter, and who are committed to supporting you regardless.
The one given to bullying can wind up behind bars because he injured another driver in a road rage incident. Someone who’s often the focus of bullying can finally snap, shooting and killing innocent victims in an attempt to assuage his torment.
Short of such drastic true-to-life scenarios, however, are the day-to-day consequences many of us face as a result of bullying.
I hate confrontations because I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, even when a wrong has been done to me. When I have had to say something hurtful to put someone in his or her place, I feel guilty forever after. Thankfully, I’ve learned to forgive myself and move on.
Low self-esteem can be a side product of being bullied. Recovering one’s confidence can be a lifetime job.
Loss of trust is another factor when bullied. The victim forever doubts what’s said going forward. Only after what seems a lifetime of reassurances can trust be reinvested, if it’s even possible.
Bullies probably never think of themselves as such. Perhaps we should all ask ourselves…
…am i a bully?…