October 17, 2013

BECOME THE TARGET! A Message Brought to You by a "Wussified" Parent...

I know that October is Bully Prevention Month and I think that's stupid.  Yep, one month of every year dedicated to teaching our children to not be jerks to each other is just not enough.  If October is the only time your child hears anything about being nice and not hurting others, I will gladly call you a bad parent to your face.  Kids should be taught from the very beginning about being nice and not hurting other people's feelings and that love is good and hate is bad.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of children that are taught hate from a very young age.  There are kids that are also taught to look the other way when there is someone different, which does not amount to hate but rather indifference, which can end up being just as hurtful.

Anyway, that being said, I have had many teachable moments with Daughter where I have taken the opportunity to teach her to ask the question and become more empathetic; to strive for understanding over ignorance.  It's a tough position for any parent to try to teach these lessons and yet we are faced with them every day!

I'm not saying I do it right...I don't know if anybody has the brilliant end-all answer.  I do know that I have seen stories about bullying go way too far in the news and I have been moved to tears by what people are willing to do to each other.  I remember bullies in school when I was growing up and although I don't remember ever having a kid walk into school with a gun or committing suicide, I do remember a lot of hurt feelings and people going home and crying in private.

I recently got into a discussion about bullying with a dad...it was really a heated argument but hey, it's my blog, I'll call it what I want to.  He brought up how kids have been wussified in today's society.  He continued to say that he couldn't remember ever seeing someone so hurt by bullying as today's kids are.  I brought up that today, kids get to bully anonymously.  We had to be cruel to someone's face and see the hurt in their eyes; not hurl an insult out into cyberspace and never see the pain it caused someone.  He thought that was the same as saying someone could be that hurt by a letter arriving in the mail that called them ugly.  That is part of the problem, not all parents realize the reach of the internet.  You can literally bully someone without ever looking them in the eye and that bullying can take place from a world away and reach back to them in their own private space.  Scary when you put it that way!

I have recently had a conversation with my 4 year old daughter about bullying.  Yep, at 4 years old I feel it's important enough to be talking about.  I've told her for a long time now to think before she says or does something about how it would make her feel if someone said or did that to her but now it's gone deeper.  We talked about how not only do I want her to be nice to others but I want her to stand up when someone else is being mean.  I want her to be a defender of those that are, for whatever reason, not standing up for themselves.  I want her to be the shining smile in someone's day filled with yelling and sneers.

When I said this to the dad I spoke of earlier, his response set me off on a tirade.  He said, "Oh, so you want your daughter to become the target?"

Here's my tirade, agree or disagree as you see fit.

Yeah, if that's what it takes, I want my daughter to take the target off her friends back and place it on her own back.  I want her to stand up for what is right in all aspects of life.  If, because she is defending someone who can't or won't defend themselves, she gets a target on her own back, fine, I want her to be that strong.  I want her to be that confident that she knows whatever hate is spewed at her, she doesn't have to believe it cuz she comes home to love and she is surrounded by people who know how uniquely awesome she is.  I want her to turn around and walk away with the target on her back and her friend at her side and the bully fading into the background.  I want her to spew so much love upon that person being bullied that whatever cruel words were thrown their way fade into the background too.  I want her to be the one that smiles in the face of the bully and tells them simply that they are not being nice.  I don't want her to look the other way when she sees someone mistreating another. I don't want her thinking that simply by not being a bully she's part of the solution.  Cuz you know what?  Simply allowing it to happen in front of you and doing nothing about it...that makes you part of the problem.  I would be proud as hell of my daughter coming home and saying that she was bullied because she stood up for someone else.  I hope like crazy that my daughter would be the friend that would be there to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, be the shoulder to cry on, be the one who says you're perfect even when you don't feel it.  If that puts a target on her back, I hope that she knows where to come to get that target shot down and where she can be lifted up and loved.  I hope that every kid has that and the scariest part to me is that not every kid has that; not every kid has a great home life; not every kid has a ton of friends; not every kid was raised to be confident in themselves; not every kid has more compliments and love thrown at them than hate and cruelty.  That's the sad part.  Offense completely meant, you are part of the problem thinking that kids should just "buck up"; quit being pansies.  Maybe instead of telling kids to just deal with it, you should be building them up so much that when someone knocks them down, they are so high up they can't be knocked to the ground.  Maybe you should be watching what your kid does and how they treat others and let them know you won't stand for them being mean.  What's taught at home is repeated in public, like it or not, you are your child's main example on how to act.  If they see you treating others badly, or acting like bullying someone is no big deal, guess what, your kid is probably either a bully or someone who tells others to just suck it up and quit being a pansy.  The kid that's on their way home to an abusive home with an alcoholic father that beats him every time he cries for being a pansy...that kid doesn't need yet another person telling them what a pansy he is; that kid needs someone to finally stand up for them and say enough is enough and if you can't be nice then just go away; that kid needs someone to just simply smile at them and become their reason for living through another day when they get home.  If that's my daughter, I'll be damned proud and I'll be happy as hell to take the target off her back with love and tenderness every time she walks back in the door of her home.  More kids need to be targets these days to truly get rid of bullying; more confidence needs to be instilled in these kids so they are willing to stand up and not take it.  So yes, I would want my daughter to be a target if it meant she was standing up for what she believes in.

I have tried to teach my daughter that love is the way to go out into the world.  That open arms and an open mind are two of the most beautiful things about a person.  That different walks of life have so many different lessons to teach and every lesson is worth learning.  That differences in people are what make this world fun to live in. That being kind and trying to understand in all situations is the best way to deal with anything that she may encounter.  I can only hope that I do my best to be the example of these words and that I give her a safe place in my arms to run to whenever tears fall or her heart aches or there are too many questions to ask or there's just too much pain to overcome alone.  I want to be the one to take the target off my childrens' backs after they took it off someone else's!

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