I have learned throughout my years, particularly over the last decade or so, that when I have similar things come into my consciousness in a short time frame, that I need to make sure I’m paying attention. Sometimes I can figure out why, other times it takes me a while to determine why this stuff is going on. Sometimes it has to do with me, but usually it goes beyond my own little world. That’s part of the reason I started blogging. I wanted to share, in case my words are being aimed at someone else.
So, anyway, I was recently at our beginning of the year meeting we have before school starts. Our superintendent gives us a pep talk and lets us know what is happening in the district. Today, he was telling us a story about a young boy who been getting it trouble quite often throughout the school year. He was being aggressive towards his peers, and being disrespectful towards staff. This child’s ultimate demise happened when he stuck beer bottles in his book bag before leaving for school one morning. These were full bottles! This child was in Kindergarten or first grade, believe it or not!
In a meeting with the Superintendent, the child’s parents, mom’s boyfriend, the Chief of Police from the district, and a couple others, the boy was talked to by the Superintendent. Eventually, the boy was asked if he had ever heard about the Golden Rule. The boy said no. Then it was spoken to him. He still denied ever hearing that phrase. Then, on a hunch, he was asked if he knew who Chucky and Jason were (obviously characters from horror movies). The boy said he had and that he had also seen many of these types of movies. Don’t forget…he is six! Ultimately, the moral of this story was broken down into how respect is waning in society today.
I also read an article about bullying in a youth worker’s journal. It talked about how prevalent bullying is today. Children are taking their own lives because of this. Earlier this summer, a 13 year old boy who I was slightly acquainted with from a school I worked at before, hung himself in a local park. He was a victim of bullying!
I also recently saw a local story of a mother who was arrested because she left her four year old in her car (in 95+ degree heat), because the child didn’t want to go in! When it comes down to it, this young child was bullying the mother!
The definition of bullying, according to Webster, is: “ To treat abusively; to affect by means of force or coercion; to use browbeating language or behavior.” What kind of world are we living in where we let our young children dictate our actions through their negative, adverse behaviors? I may not have the “why” answer, but I can tell you this much. Almost all of my clients I have worked with over the past three years of so have had, “anger management issues.” I admit, some of them do have legitimate physiological things going on that contribute to this, but through my observations with these kids, it seems that a vast majority of these behaviors are under much more control that the casual observer may believe. Most of these actions (and I will throw in, admittedly by many of them) are conscious tantrums. Even in “fits of rage,” I have seen elements of control from these kids! I’ve found this to be so true that when I start working with a new client, I ask them how much of these outbursts are legitimate and how much is fake. Every one of the m has told me that at least 50 percent is fake. Generally the answer is closer to 70-80%. One even told me that 100 percent of it is!
So, the question begs to be asked…why are we handing over so much control to these children? Are too many parents trying to be friends instead of parents? This approach obviously doesn’t work. When did it become the norm to give children everything they want? We give them items and control! What this ultimately leads to is that children think that they deserve, and should be given anything, and will accomplish fulfillment by whatever means necessary. We’re not teaching our kids about hard work, patience, and respect. Instead, we’re making them think that if they whine, cry, or throw fits long enough, they’ll get what they want. Not only is this turning them into people who feel entitled to anything and everything, we are also not teaching them how to problem solve and figure out (on their own) what steps they need to take to reach their goals. I witness, on a daily basis, children who can’t go through this process, whether it is a math problem or learning how to get along with others. Daily, I have kids ask me how to do something, despite the fact that it’s been explained to them many times. They keep coming back in an effort to have me do their work for them. Some of them IMMEDIATELY are out of their seat to ask. Don’t’ get me wrong, I do help, but when the same students exhibit the same behavior consistently (when I know fully that they are very capable), I have to put my foot down and insist that they try on their own first. But, they have gotten into the habit of not listening and then asking for help. Where do they learn this? I think it’s obviously a learned behavior. Someone in their life has consistently given into their wants, instead of taking the extra effort to teach them. When we give children everything they want, it steals their opportunities to learn lessons, whether they are academic or life lessons. How will they ever learn if it’s all given to them?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know this. We need to spend the time with them to teach them these things. Whether it is patience to learn to wait on what they want, or maybe hard work that helps them earn things in life. But most importantly, we need to teach them respect. Respect towards their peers, adults around them, the environment, and most importantly, towards themselves. Once they can learn how to respect themselves, the rest will begin to fall into place. I think so many aren’t shown this, and as a result, they don’t feel the love they so desire.
I think it can all be summed up in the book or Mark, chapter 12, verses 30-31. It says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’”
So many of us today don’t really know how to love ourselves, so it makes perfect sense that we don’t know how to love others, so in order to make ourselves feel better, we end up bullying others. To truly love ourselves, we have to learn how to love God first. After this, it becomes easier on the other levels. By the way, the above scripture was one we used at camp a few weeks ago. The group I worked with did a skit as part of our vespers service planned that week. What do you think they picked as the focus of the skit to get their point across? Bullying! Out of the mouths of babes, so they say! So, in the last 30 days, I’ve been presented with this by 6th & 7th graders, the Superintendent of my school district, and in a magazine that I rarely read. Coincidence? I doubt it. I’m more apt to say it is providence. So, what do I do with it personally? I think I just did part of what I’m supposed to by sharing it with others. I also need to try to circumvent it at work every day as much as possible. But the final question is this…what are all of you going to do? We all play a part. Now it’s time to become a part of the solution, no matter how small or insignificant as it may seem, because if we aren’t a part of the solution, were a part of the problem, whether we realize it or not!