Friday, February 18, 2011

Character Building Bullying?

I overheard someone asking "No, character building bullying these days?!"

I was automatically horrified by the statement.  Bullying as a way to build the bullied kids's character? That's just mean!

But a couple of hours later I started to think about it.  Bullying has always had a tendency to get out of control. School yard fights are a long told tale.  But this generation has taken it to a new level. Children have been killed over being different. People are attacked. Entire school turn against certain students and those students sometimes end up bring guns to school.  When living in hell, why not try to shoot yourself out.  It's not ok, but you have to think of the back story there.

And I find that people tend to one of two parties: 'The boys will be boys' and 'The feel your feelings' teams.

So when I heard that statement my automatic response system went up and cried NO!  But maybe he has a point.  These days we shelter our children. We restrict play from the rowdy kids and hover over them like helicopters (ever brilliant term: helicopter parents).

Hell, there's even movements encouraging a Mother to co-feed her 5 year old with her newborn. All about the good health  here people but sometimes it's time to move up to the next step. We are so concerned that I will not be surprised the day safety helmets are required at school because someone's Daddy is a lawyer and his son got 3 stitches.

The thing is, kids have to go through things. It should never be in the extreme and I do not condone abuse nor harassment.  I'm just saying that these two teams need to meet in the middle.  If Billy keeps punching all of his friends in the face, he's not going to have any friends left. And if Mommy goes with Joey to 6th grade camp, no on is going to want to sit next to him at the campfire.

That being said, I'm a total Emotions, pink cloud, I will smack your child if he makes mine cry kind of Mom. I have to really control it.  I practically ran around after my oldest with a pillow at the park. Oh don't fall! And I intervened the moment someone's little voice rose.  You know what happened, he had a difficult time sticking up for himself. We spent a semester in school dealing with that because they just didn't make a desk big enough for Mommy's ass.

Sometimes kids need to fall. They need to know how to puff their chests out a little and stick up for themselves. They need that confidence that comes after you do.  If you always protect them from their challenges, they will never learn to do it themselves. And they will have to, eventually.

On the other hand, you parents who live so vicariously through their children that it's you that gets butterflies when the most popular boy asks your daughter out, stop. Stop it. This whole be what I was thing is annoying, and just because you hated "nerds" doesn't mean your kid should too. And when does the healthy teasing stop? When someone is lit on fire? What if it were your kid? Let your kid be an ass, but teach him that it doesn't matter if a kid is small, different, homosexual, or has special needs.  You can still be an ass without being a total waste of skin and oxygen.

Where does this get us? The good old middle ground.  It's easier for feelings people to let their kids learn and grow at their own pace if someone isn't going to threaten their daily life over it.  Also, sometimes feelings people need to explain the delicacy of social interactions to their children and how maybe, if he'd like, he could change his 'you all should die' t-shirt. People may be a little more open to him that way.

So we need to take the rough and tumble kids (and parents) and give them a little sensitivity training. Teach them that unless they are going to stay working at Daddy's garage, it may be good to understand that their are different ways of life.  Fuzzy parents, time to take your 12 year old out of the baby bjorn carrier and let him walk on his own a little bit.

Obnoxiously, this all comes down to a balance. Something very difficult for one person and seemingly impossible for a society.  When did the greater good ever become such a difficult concept to understand?  We live together. We survive together. We're supposed to a clan.

Oh and for the love of Pete, could we parents all stop to remember that our little Bob or Susy may not be that perfect little angel we always thought.  Kids learn to snow the vast majority of parents by 4 years old.  Your 14 year old is now an expert.  Be aware of your kids, how they are, what they are feeling, and what they are doing. It's a pain in the ass but it really makes a difference.  


  1. In a former life I was a therapist working with men who beat their wives. Over 8 years or so I counseled thousands of men to help them learn alternatives to violence.

    I can assure you - bullying has consequences, for the bully and the bullied. This is not an inconsequencial "boys will be boys" issue.

    Keep in mind, parents with bullying children, that people who feel good about themselves do not go around hurting other people. It is not a sign of strength.

    It's not about being tough or being a poofter...

    Parents - love your children and interrupt bad behavior - and encourage their humanity to thrive.

    There is a bokk here somewhere... (another book)

  2. Yes, A book! We parents need guidance!

    There are a lot of consequences and I totally agree with you that a child who feels good about himself does not hurt others. It breaks my heart when I see it and the parents don't seem to.