Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Kids are Mean

Just about anyone who has been through school will tell you that kids are mean. They may not have been on the receiving end of it, but they have seen it. A post on the GeekDad blog over at Wired is about the topic in response to an almost too outrageous to believe story from Florida in which a kindergarten teacher had her students vote on whether or not to expel another student.

I was bullied a lot as a kid. It had a profound impact on my life and not in a good way. I became a very angry teenager, not just because of the bullying but it played no small part in it. That anger led me to a lot of self-destructive choices that in some ways I am still trying to recover from. I think it is safe to say that I am at a point in my life where I have worked through that anger and dealt with the issue, but it has taken a lot of self-discipline, a lot of time, a lot of emotional release. The impact that bullying has on kids cannot be underestimated.

The source of bullying must be understood. It is about insecurity. The kids (well, all people, really, including adults) bully others because they feel insecure. They feel powerless. It is their way of asserting themselves, of hiding their true face, that of a scared kid worried that no one is going to like him or her. Bullies are lonely, afraid, and desperate for acceptance. They lash out in the only way they know how, but unfortunately it only serves to make those being bullied miserable while doing nothing for their own problems.

So, what to do about it? Well, parents must give their kids the self-respect and confidence so that they do not feel a need to bully other kids and so they can weather the storm if they are the target of bullies. It sounds so simple, but as a parent, I understand the difficulties in doing this. My youngest daughter, Shaena, is very insecure and feels worthless. Unfortunately, at her mother's home she is often called "fat", "worthless", and told she won't ever amount to anything. She is being bullied at home which is ten times worse than being bullied by your peers and it's not something that can just be made to go away. I see it in Shaena's face when I tell her how beautiful she is, how smart she is, what a wonderful kid she is, that a part of her doesn't quite believe me and it breaks my heart.

To all of the parents out there, tell your kids how wonderful they are just the way they are. Tell 'em when they are young. Tell 'em when as they are growing up. Give your kids the strength to stand before anyone and say, "I am a good person and I don't care what you say." God knows, they'll need it.


kyle said...

and here i was thinking that i was the only one who had "discovered" wired's geekdad. i was lucky enough to find that one when it first came out.

kyle said...

also, (hate being the "double-posting" guy) i really appreciate your candid comments about parenting. kids are mean, and it's amazing how many parents are so intensely mean to their children as well.
we were at the detroit zoo just a few days ago (the most exciting part was when we were in this glass tube underwater and a polar bear swam right over the top of us and took a huge dump) and this mother standing next to us just went off on one of her kids. this little guy was about nine or ten and his mom was yelling at him, "why can't you be good? why do you always have to be bad? I can't believe that you've ruined the whole trip like this."
we're all human. we all lose it with our kids from time to time...but to say those things to your little one... i know im not a great parent and i screw up from time to time, but i sure hope that i never break my kids heart in that way. and if i do, i pray that i am quick to beg for their forgiveness. may we all have a more gentle heart when we're dealing with our kids. and may we give them plenty of opportunities to succeed.