This post is probably not going to make me any friends. I'd love to believe that it wouldn't make me any enemies either... but who knows.
For the past week or so I've been dealing with a parents worst nightmare. My baby boy Cameron has been getting bullied at school. He is in first grade and is truly one of the sweetest boys you will ever meet. He is quiet and tries so hard to follow the rules in school. At home he can be rough and tumble but he is just a genuinely good boy. That being said... my son is not being verbally bullied... he is being PHYSICALLY bullied (punching, kicking, hair pulling, face slapping... the works). Now normally with mild verbal bullying I wouldn't make a big stink about it. I'd talk to Cameron, tell him what to say to the boy, explain that this boy's words can't hurt him... blah blah blah. But nobody, I repeat NOBODY, lays a hand on my son. Oh boy, mama bear is about to break out of her cage. When I heard what had been occurring and (whats worse) how LONG it had been going on I immediately called the school and made it clear that I was someone to reckon with and meant serious business. I have been in steady contact with the school nearly every day since and the situation is slowly getting resolved, the little boy is getting the help he needs, and Cameron has been informed of the appropriate course of action should it happen again.
However, this whole situation got me thinking (I know... dangerous). This is happening in first grade... FIRST GRADE! What is going to happen when my children get older? High school was a vicious place for me. I wasn't necessarily the best kid, got in some significant trouble (gigantic fricken cry for help). I tried, but I don't think I ever felt like I truly fit in with the "cool crowd." I didn't live in the right place, I didn't go to the right church, I hadn't known these people since I was 5, the list goes on. There were a couple "kids" in middle school and high school (same school... it was a k-12... brilliant, right?) that, looking back, made me hurt more than I could possibly describe. These people would call me friends and then laugh at me behind my back (but not quite out of earshot). And sometimes I even wonder if the "bullying," along with a couple other major life events, led me to make some of the choices that I did further down the line.
This was roughly 10 years ago, and kids are so much more vindictive than they used to be. What kind of world will my own kids walk into when they enter through those high school doors for the very first time? I guarantee it'll be a much different, more painful world then I lived in.
So this leads me to the title of this blog, "A Bully Begins at Home." Now of course I am no child psychologist (although I play one on TV ::wink wink::), however, I truly believe that so many of the actions from bullies stem from their home life. There is a saying that says, "hurt people hurt people" and bullying is not the exception to this but is the rule. Being a bully is a learned behavior. A baby doesn't emerge from the womb looking for their first victim. A 2 year old doesn't naturally go up to another child, push them over and take all their stuff. It isn't typical for a 6 year old to go up to his class mate and slap him in the face "just because." Instead, these things are shown to them, one way or another. Perhaps some can be given the benefit of the doubt. They learned it on TV, or witnessed something similar from a different child on the play ground. Or maybe they could be a victim themselves.
Parents have a very important job. We hold the health, both emotional and physical, of our children in the palm of our hands. What we do, how we treat them, even what we allow them to watch on TV and listen to on the radio, shapes them into the people that they will become whether we like it or not. Bullying is defined as aggressive behavior against someone else that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. A scary question is, do we bully our own children? Are they learning this behavior from the very people who are supposed to guard them against it?
Whether we choose to believe it or not, bullying is a real danger now a-days. Tormented youth are killing themselves because their peers just won't let up. Girls are bulimic and anorexic because the other girls have been calling them fat. Hurting teens are bringing guns and knives to school because they've reached their breaking point.
Just like bullying starts at home, so does prevention. Engage, encourage and love your children. But most importantly be a living example for them. I am going to work harder at this in my own home, because I know without a doubt that actions speak louder than words.