As featured in The Reflector:
My oldest is only in the second grade, so I figured my experiences with the often discussed bullying problem wouldn’t come until much later. I was wrong. I’ve never wished so hard that I had been right instead.
The most tragic part about this situation is that the blame can be directly placed on the shoulders of adults. I’m not trying to be insulting, but it’s the truth. Adults do a lot of stupid things, myself included. We’re just big kids sometimes. I get that. But shamelessly and deliberately being poor examples for our children is where I draw the line.
So I want to talk for a second about what we’re teaching our children.
This past spring I was sitting along the third base line watching Hunter play baseball. He was only in the first grade, but the oldest kids playing were only fourth graders. They were just babies. All of them.
They were playing baseball because it seemed like the fun thing to do. It had nothing to do with their talent or visions of a championship. Sure, winning was fun, but tossing around a baseball with their classmates was more fun. It all started just as it should.
There were a few, little battles over the rules that turned this game into the ugliest sporting event I have ever witnessed. And it was a machine-pitch game for a bunch of little kids.
The real clincher, however, was that the blame for the display that took place rested with the parents.
Insults were being hollered at our coach at an alarming rate. No one seemed to be even mildly alarmed by the fact that the kids were listening to all of it. The insults being hurled attacked his integrity and even his religion. It was appalling.
But then something even worse happened. One of the little boys on the other team who was sitting on their bench stood up and literally started screaming at the umpire. You could have heard him on the next field over.
My initial reaction was shock. If our son had acted that way he would’ve been yanked from the game. He would’ve been lucky if we ever let him play again.
My second reaction was pity. I don’t know whose son he was and frankly, that’s irrelevant. The issue was that not one of his parents stood up and let that little boy know that his behavior was inappropriate. Instead they giggled and smirked. He was, after all, just copying what he’d been listening to for the past hour.
Another completely separate issue came to my attention just last night. This same son informed me that some kids were picking on him at recess. He was playing with a ball and some older kids told him they wanted it and demanded that he hand it over. We’ve taught our kids to stand up for themselves, so he said no. They came and took it from him.
Hunter did the only thing that he knew how. He went to one of the recess aids and explained the situation. He found an adult, someone big enough to help him. But instead of receiving help, my son and the offender BOTH had to sit on the wall in a “time-out” and he never got the ball back.
I just stared at him dumbfounded when he tearfully explained the situation to me. It took him days to even tell me it had happened because he was ashamed of himself for getting into “trouble.” There was steam coming out of my ears.
What are we teaching our children!? Nothing that we should be, that’s for sure.
So for the record and just so that I’ve said it out loud, I’d like to announce that this sort of behavior is not okay. Ever. Not at all.
We are teaching our children in a public arena that it is okay to be insulting, rude and mean. We’re teaching them that we care only about winning and that we care nothing for actual people. We are teaching them that another person's mistake is sufficient grounds to crucify him. We are demonstrating to them that we care nothing about forgiveness, mercy, kindness or grace.
We’re teaching them that they can’t trust anybody. We’re showing them that adults don’t care at all about truth. As a matter of fact, we’re teaching them fear. We’re teaching them that honesty will get them nowhere in life. Doing things right will get them nowhere. We’re teaching them that bullies win and there’s no such thing as a trusted adult who will help them.
So essentially we’re teaching them to lie. We’re teaching them that no one is on their side. We’re telling them they have to defend themselves because no one else will and if they’re not strong enough to defend themselves, we’re going to let them drown.
This is a crying shame. It’s a travesty. As adults, we have the amazing and serious responsibility to teach our children love, honor and respect. We have the chance to spread goodness and perpetuate integrity. It’s our responsibility to raise children -- children who will one day be adults. Adults who will hopefully act better than this when given the opportunity.
If we, as a society, want this bullying problem stopped, adults should probably start looking in the mirror. Quit looking into what’s “wrong” with our youth for a solution to the problem. That’s not where the blame lies.