Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Thoughts on Bullying

Recently, I have watched someone that I love being bullied. It's not a new topic to me, since I witnessed bullying as a teacher and had to address it, but having someone that I care about be bullied has brought it more to the forefront of my mind and heart recently. I know that the media has spent a lot of time talking about bullying and why it's happening more and why it's more severe, but I find it ironic that the very culture that preached tolerance and love, is dealing with an increase in bullies. So what's going on that's causing it, and is it really an issue that needs to be addressed?

Let's start with the second question first. Is it really an issue that needs to be addressed? There are those out there, myself included at one time, that say kids will be kids, and it's only a big deal because we've made it a big deal, but kids need to learn to just deal. I admit I thought this too at first, but then I began to see how bullying is carried out now a days. It's not just some teasing here and there or getting beat up, those things can be part of it, but it's the frequency and amount of teasing that's the issue.  My family member who is being bullied, gets teased not just once a day, but continuously all day. The other girls are constantly attacking her character and personality. They pick at every move she makes and every word she speaks. They constantly snicker behind their hands as they glance in her direction, making a point of making sure she knows it's her they're talking and laughing about. They glare at her and give her dirty looks. They cheer when she stumbles, and they rejoice when cries. Do you want to know the worst of it? These girls were supposed to be her friends. If you have friends that treat you like that, then who needs enemies? So back to the question, do I think bullying is an issue that needs to be addressed? YES! Absolutely, yes, because it's constant and the victim has no chance of standing up for themselves or defending themselves. Yes, because the aggressors need to be told that treating others that way is wrong, and that all people deserve respect.

So then, what's causing bullying to become such a pervasive problem? Well, there's lots of opinions on that too, but I'm just going to share my personal opinions on a few factors that have lead to the rise in bullying. Here it goes:

#1 - Parents not teaching their children responsibility/consequences for their actions. It seems like parents today make excuse after excuse for their children rather than demanding that their children take ownership of their actions. And it starts young! I've heard a parent of a preschooler explain that their child hit another child because the other child caused them to. When I was growing up, I distinctly remember being punished for biting another girl's hand as she ripped my paper out of my hands and tore it up in front of me. She was absolutely in the wrong for destroying my property and I was outraged, but my mom taught me that her behavior was no excuse for me misbehaving. I couldn't control that girl ripping up my paper, but I could control my behavior in choosing not to bite her. Two wrongs don't make a right, is what I've always been told. Children need to learn that they are responsible for their actions and that there are consequences to bad behavior, which leads to my next point.

#2 - Parents no longer want to be parents, but rather to be their child's friend. Too often I found as a teacher that parents didn't want to take the tough stances with their kids. They were too afraid of making their child angry at them to tell their child, "no." I would call home to tell a parent that their son or daughter was failing my class because they were not doing any of their work in class or at home, and many times the parent would say, "Yeah, I can't get them to do anything around here, I just don't know what to do with them." And then they would ask me how to address it, me, the woman who was fresh out of college and didn't have any children of her own. And all I could think was, if this were me and my parents, they'd tell me, as long as I was living under their roof, I would do what I was told and if I didn't like it, there's the door. It's called tough love, and while I may not have liked them much in those instances, more importantly I respected them as my authority figures, and as a result I respected other authority figures. But parents today are afraid of hurting their children's feelings, and have not taught their children to respect them as parents much less anyone else including their peers.

#3 - We as a society have taught our children that bad behavior is to be celebrated. Look at what we put on television today and consider how adults behave on many of the popular reality televsion shows. Women, who are supposed to be friends, screaming at each other and throwing punches, and we call it reality. I don't know about you, but that's not how I act when I have a problem with someone. I usually stew over it, complain to my husband or my mom about the person, and sometimes I even go to that person after careful consideration and with much fear and trepidation, confront the issue in a calm and civil manner. But we act like these women on these shows are behaving in a normal manner by being so aggressive towards one another, and we watch it as entertainment. I know some people have problems with The Hunger Games series because it's about a society that has children kill one another for entertainment, but we're not all that far off with what we watch for entertainment. And I'll admit, I watch those shows too, but I have to wonder, what are we teaching our children about acceptable behavior with shows like that?

#4 - And I truly feel this is the real heart of the issue, we as a society have walked away from any standards or absolutes when it comes to a moral code. We preach tolerance and what works for you might not necessarily work for me, and we just have to be OK with that. Children are not taught morals, values, or principles of character. Parents take a hands-off approach to it, and schools aren't allowed to teach responsibility. God and the Bible has been all but stripped from our society. And no one is allowed to tell anyone else that they are right or wrong in their behavior. We lack moral integrity in our society. Too often we see our public figures from politicians to athletes or celebrities, compromising their standards, making poor choices, and living lives that 50 years ago would have been completely unacceptable for anyone much less someone in a prominent position in the public eye. So if we can't agree on a code of right and wrong, then why do we expect our children to instinctively know it?

I hate that someone I love is being bullied, and I hate that she's not alone. It's a huge problem, massive. But it stems from an even greater problem. Am I blaming parents? Yes. Am I blaming television? Yes. But am I making excuses for the bullies? NO! We, as a society, need to be reminded of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." But even more importantly, we need to get back to the source where the Golden Rule comes from, God's Word. We need God in our country, we need Him in our homes, we need Him in our schools, and we need Him in our lives. I truly believe we are seeing a rise in bullying because of the decline of God in our society as a direct result of our choices and actions, and now our children are suffering the consequences of our choices. Ironic, isn't it?