My risk. Your gain.
I am probably taking a big risk with this post, but I am just going to say it. Parents have the power to eliminate bullying. Furthermore, it must be accomplished before children even set foot in a school.
Studies dance around the issue, because empirical scientific methods are geared for testing a limited sample and a single variable at a time. It will always be a limited sample, even if it is a meta-analysis. Researchers must always leave the door open for further studies to be conducted. That is the scientific method, and science will continue to gather evidence interminably.
Not everyone is going to agree, but, on this, I’m taking a stand.
As a teacher and former victim myself, I am convinced that parents have the power to eliminate bullying.
Original definition of evil = uppity.
Bullies are not born, they are created when:
- Parents fail to establish a loving bond with their children in the first year of life, insisting on strict rules and schedules. (Uppityness…controlling…a form of evil.)
Children learn that people have the right to call the shots when they have a chance.
2.Parents are authoritarian and claim the right to be right. “Because I said so.” (Disrespecting other’s rights…a form of evil.)
Sure, parents get compliance in the moment and take pride in getting their children to obey immediately, but anger, sneakiness, and the “right to seek revenge” is what children learn.
3. Parents teach that winning is everything. (Needing to be better than…a form of evil.)
Their children might be honor roll students and top athletes, but they will stop at nothing to get what they want, no matter the cost to others.
4. Parents verbalize how they are better than others, are angry and resentful about others, speak derisively about others, and demean those they think are different than they are. (Judging…a form of evil.)
Their children worry that someone may be talking badly behind their backs, because they have heard it so often from their parents. They take a stand early and make sure they have are the ones on the offensive.
5. Parents harbor grudges against others, verbalize their fears and mistrust, and talk openly about characteristics of people or groups of people–either negatively or positively. They obviously (to their children) believe that if a person wrongs them once, they must cut them out of their lives. (Judging…a form of evil.)
Their children believe that if someone missteps, they have fallen into the group of people who cannot be trusted. They go on the offensive to make sure it isn’t them. They also may want to make sure that someone will be talking positively about them, so by making someone else look bad, they will automatically look good in the eyes of others.
6. Parents mistrust teachers and the school system. They assume that their child is right. (If they assume their child is right, they are also assuming that someone has to be wrong without bothering to understand…judging…a form of evil.)
If children have parents with any of the characteristics above, they will do everything in their power to convince their parents that they are in the right. They cannot bear the thought of falling out of their parents good graces.
7. Physical or emotional abuse. (Lording over their children…a form of evil.)
Children might become the bully or the victim, but in either situation, it is unlikely that they will avoid either.
8. Parents overindulge and believe their child can do no wrong. (Assuming then that others are wrong…judging without understanding…a form of evil.)
Children think they can do no wrong. If they are accused, they simply tell their parents they are being picked on, and their parents come running to their defense. All the child has to do is put on the sweet-face act, and their parents will clear the path for whatever they want.
9. Parents are too busy or suffering themselves to spend time modeling good behavior and teaching their children. (Parents have most likely been victims of abuse or neglect themselves.)
These children might be left with nannies and have all the toys they could possibly want, or, they might be left to fend for themselves and have free rein of the neighborhood. In any of these situations, they don’t feel fully loved, and they don’t learn essential social skills. These children could go either way–bullies or victims, but it is not going to turn out well.
10. Parents indulge in teasing and sarcasm. Tickling, rough-housing, and competition taken overboard also cause damage when the child’s pleas for stopping go unheeded. (Seeking to get the upper hand and control…a form of evil.) Sarcasm and teasing are excellent means of control, because parents can slide out of any situation by saying, “Oh, I was just kidding.”
The child never really knows whether people mean what they are saying or not, so they tend to go on the offensive, making sure to protect themselves and do the teasing first. They learn that they can manipulate people by saying mean things, and then sound like they are backpedaling when they say, “Oh, I was just teasing.”
Red flags for creating targets for being bullied:
- Parents have strict religious rules.
Children try to be good, but have no recourse to assert or defend themselves–always fearing the fires of hell. (These children might also become bullies.)
2. Parents are self-absorbed and do not love their children. They consider them a nuisance and unworthy of their time or respect. They act as if the children are not there, never really see them, and don’t care how they feel about something or what they want.
The child learns that they are unlovable. They conclude that since their parents don’t love or respect them, there would be no chance that anyone else would either. After all, their parents know them best. They just try to hide, and believe any terrible thing someone says about them. These children almost always become the victims in this situation, and this is the hardest problem to overcome.
3. Parents laugh at their children, or show contempt or disgust.
The child learns that they are just a fake, and that they are incapable of being as good as anyone else.
4. Parents constantly worry about their children, hover, and protect. (Helicopter parents.)
These children learn that they cannot be trusted to take care of themselves, and that their parents don’t want them to take care of themselves. The children’s security lies in them remaining helpless so their parents will be there for them, but they’ve never learned skills, so they couldn’t leave if they tried.
What DOES create an emotionally healthy child and adult?
It is said that children don’t come with owners manuals. I maintain that they DO. When we parents understand that we are all unique, spiritual beings (mind/soul) who run on battery cells that can only be fueled with high-octane love; that we house these souls in a temporary body; that our children are every bit as important as we are; and that our children are not given one shred of information about how to survive in this world, we can see our way ahead.
We cannot assume that our children are going to make the right decisions. We also cannot assume that our children are going to be bad in any way. Our job is to fall in love with our children during the first year of life when they are trying to get their bearings on this foreign planet. We must learn to read our baby’s emotional cues and faithfully respond–setting up our essential, lifelong communication links.
We cannot think that our job is to simply teach rules and be done. Every day is a learning experience for all of us. We parents don’t know everything, and we know nothing of the people our children will be interacting with. Every interaction is a new game. Fortunately, if our children have been validated and guided in ways of mutual respect during their first years, schools can meet them at the door and partner with us in a community of continued growth.
As parents, we are on a continual learning path, too. If we are using rules, status, power, or control as our guiding lights, we will fail miserably. Life can feel like an impossible job if we are using those things for fuel. Indeed, it is work, but as Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” — when we are running on divine fuel.
If you are feeling swamped, I have left you my favorite life rafts on my Starfish Mission page. Reach out. Shout out. Become vulnerable to possibility and hope. Sometimes we must humble ourselves, grieve our pasts, and almost go back to our infant-soul stages again. By going back, we learn how to become our own compassionate parents and plug into the magical, sustaining fuel of love. This doesn’t require religion (although some churches provide awesome support), but it does require understanding that we are spiritual beings.
What is your experience? Have you ever felt bullied? Have you caught yourself trying to manipulate someone? (Most of us have!) Please help us learn by sharing your story by sharing your story in the comment section below.
Love, ❤ ❤ ❤