Like most parents, I could spend all day extolling the virtues of my three awesome children. However, despite all of the accolades and proud mother moments, there is one thing that I won’t tolerate and that is for any of my children to mistreat anyone. While I am my children’s greatest cheerleader and supporter, I make it a point to not turn a blind eye on misbehavior. On the contrary, it gets my full, undivided attention.
These days a lot of parents I come in contact with at places like swimming lessons, the play ground, school, skiing and karate, act as if they can’t see when their own child is abusing or mistreating another child. Worse yet, they may witness the abuse or gather all of the facts and still not react as if there is a problem. Prime example is when my son went on an all-day ski trip without us about an hour away from home. We got a call towards the end of the day from the head ski instructor informing us that my son had gotten his front tooth knocked out, not while skiing, but by a boy who threw an ice ball at his mouth as they were waiting to board the bus to come home. Hello? Surely there must have been a bad connection. In retrospect, I’m thankful that my husband answered the phone because he was calm, mature and willing to listen. I’m not so sure I could have handled the call as well as he did. When we met the bus to pick our son up, the parents of the boy who knocked my son’s tooth out were there too. Do you think they apologized or had their son apologize? Not even close. Instead, they stood there defensively ticking through all of the reasons why this incident was so uncharacteristic of “Johnny”. We later found out that “Johnny”, on a previous ski trip, had tried to push two children off the ski lift! I guess my son got off relatively easy.
Another example is when my youngest daughter was taking a shower after her swimming lesson not too long ago. She’s a petite 3-year old to begin with, and she was just standing in the shower as I was rinsing her off. Out of nowhere came a rambunctious boy, a big 5 or 6-year old, one of a set of twins, who pushed her out of her shower so that he could be next to his brother. My daughter let out a loud, “stop boy, that’s my shower!” and I thought that would be the end of it. Well, to my surprise his mother just smiled and said “go quickly, honey, so the little girl can take a shower”. Of course my head was spinning around 360 degrees after that comment, so I said “did you not see that my daughter was in this shower and your son just pushed her out?” The woman looked at me sheepishly and said “he gets really unruly if he can’t shower next to his brother. I promise he’ll be out in 30 seconds”. I stood there with my eyes as big as saucers not believing that this woman was serious. She was afraid of her son getting “unruly” so she was willing to let him push a 3-year old girl out of the way to get what he wanted. She taught him in that instant that his desires come first no matter who he has to hurt to get them. Even a little girl half his size. Incredible.
I have numerous examples I could site where different iterations of the same theme have happened to each one of my children numerous times, and the offending child’s parents reacted in a similar fashion. It is clear to me why there is a bullying problem in our schools. In my opinion it is linked directly to the fact that some children are not given boundaries at a young age, then they grow up not respecting authority, and feeling like they call the shots. In many cases children face zero consequences when they use bullying tactics with their own parents, which only encourages them to use them against their peers and others. I think some of it may also stem from parents wanting to be friends with their children, so they are reluctant to discipline them. Whatever the reasons, until parents begin to hold their children to higher standards and to call them out on their inappropriate behavior we will continue to grow a nation of entitled, disrespectful bullies. Admitting that your child has a behavior issue, and then dealing with it, is not necessarily an indictment of one’s parenting skills. However, it does mean that the child’s issues need to be sincerely and honestly addressed before you turn him or her loose on the rest of the world.