There has been attention placed on bullying in our national media as of late. Kids being tormented for being different, ridiculed for diversity be it financial or physical. We as adults can assure our kids this will enhance their character as adults and be important life lessons for their futures but does this help them survive the harsh years of adolescents? Can the coaching and life lesson speech sooth the wounds that years of isolation creates for them? How can we as parents help our kids traverse what I see as a new face to bullying?
When I was younger bullying was thought as more a physical attack on a child. A school yard bully was the kid that gave wedgies for attention or called other kids names. It was the kid who once chased me down the cruising strip in her car because she felt I was talking to her low life boyfriend. Although terrifying, I could confront that issue head on, face fire with fire. The face of bullying seems to have changed and morphed into a a psychological warfare of isolation and exclusion. Superiority/exclusivity seems to rule today's arsenol of the modern bully for both boys and girls. The Mean Girl/Boy mentality.
For me what should make a child popular is their personality. As an adult I am drawn to the dynamic, the different, the dare to dream success story. I could give two poops about your dwelling, economic status, or wardrobe. I don't care if you belong to the country club, drive a pinto or a porsche. Your self worth is what I am interested in. I notice when you give of your time and talent to others without concern for notoriety. I like the mom & dad who waves to everyone and makes others feel included. I like the coach who coaches to the weakest kid as well as the all-star. Yep I am a lover of love.
Now that I have roadmapped what should make someone popular, how do we translate the image of a good person to the kids who are being taught something far different at home. No, I don't think parents are telling their kids to maintain their image by staying superior but I do see the kids mimicking what they are seeing.
My husband and I are home body's. We place family before all else. Some of our closest friends are our siblings. This has not always put our kids in the best play circles. Cousins are all different ages and find our kids incredibly "cool" but it doesn't help them fit in at school where they spend the majority of their day. I have started opening our home to our kids friends. Encouraging them to invite over people they enjoy spending time with and also someone they may feel is isolated. When my son complains about a child at school annoying him I tell him to put himself in that child's shoes. Do you think he may be acting out to get attention? Is it possible he feels the need to be included as bad as you do? I tell him to come home the next day and tell me something great about that kid. Talk to him. At birthday parties I invite all the kids and make sure special attention is paid to any child who is feeling left out. We are acknowledging our weakness' and taking steps to correct it for the benefit of our children. How do we translate this to those who encourage exclusivity in their homes? How do we translate it to those who feel social status is what makes the world go round?
I would like to have a big plan. As I was editing, I read my draft to one of my close friends. She thinks the mental bully may be more prominent in the private sector of schools then the public arena. Being a child who attended both private and then public school I tend to agree with her. That plagues me to think my choice to send my child to a private school may be causing him more harm. I can teach him all day to stand up to adversity but when the bullying is so subtle as exclusion seems to be, what tools other then his religious background and constant pep talks do I have to empart on his impressionable mind? A childs self esteem can only take so many turns of the cheek before they get a bad case of whiplash!