Bullying. The universal word that takes every parents’ breath away. It’s every mother’s worst fear, that their child is the victim of bullying; or even worse, the bully himself. Personally, this is something that keeps me up at night, a place my mind navigates to in the late hours of the night when life’s biggest questions tug at my heart. Am I raising good people? Are my children happy? Are they KIND to others???
Seriously though. Kindness. I preach it to my children on the daily. I often tell my son that I don’t care if he is the smartest kid in his class, the best player on his baseball team, or the most popular kid on the playground. The most important thing in this life is to be kind. And I mean it. I would much rather raise a good human being that has mediocre life skills, than an entitled asshole.
My obsession with kindness is probably because I see how dang cruel this world can be, and like every parent, wish I could protect my children from the ugliness. Honestly, I am absolutely blown away by how much bullying goes on now-a-days, and at such a young age. This past Spring, my son stopped wearing shorts to school. 90 degrees out and he’s running around in skinny jeans and his little brother’s 3T (belly) shirts, sweating like a sinner in church. Come to find out, he wore a long shirt with shorts to school one day and somebody called him a “nasty girl.” Not only did I have to go out and buy a bunch of new pants for him to wear, but more importantly, was taught that the way girls dress is “nasty.” Ugh.
Thankfully, with the exception of the above instance, we’ve been lucky to avoid the whole bullying thing thus far. Probably because he’s a boy and they are too busy being gross, wrestling on the playground, and showing each other their penises to do much of anything else. But the girls. Oh my gosh. Our daughter just turned one so I am hoping we have a little bit of time to prepare emotionally, because let me tell you: I’ve heard complete horror stories from my friends who have little girls. No joke, we are talking “Mean Girls” shit in preschool! It’s an epidemic people.
I don’t tell you this to scare you into homeschooling your kids, but rather to show how amazingly impressionable the hearts and minds of our children are. It begs the question – do these little people, most of whom just recently learned to wipe their own butts, really have the ability to understand what they are doing to each other? Did the 5 year old who made fun of my son realize his words would make our morning routine of getting dressed ABSOLUTE HELL? In all honesty, I truly don’t think so.
My point is, kids can be annoying, and loud, and obnoxious – but they aren’t usually malicious. When I hear of young children going out of their way to bully a classmate, I can’t help but wonder where they learned such behavior, because I just don’t buy that it develops out of nowhere. Kids are not born ass-holes, they are taught to become them. They are learning it from somewhere, and I’d bet money it has a lot to do with watching us adults bully and shame one another on the daily. There is negativity everywhere, and we’re all guilty of it.
Go on social media, walk by the coffee station at work, or sit around the dinner table – everyone is focused on the negative. We complain about our co-workers, we gossip about friends, we all do it – and our children are watching us. It’s no wonder we live in a world where toddlers act like teenagers.
With this in mind, I have started to evaluate my own behavior, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m part of the problem. Put simply, I’m kind of a hypocrite. How can I be preaching to my kid about kindness when I’m being Debbie the Downer at the dinner table, barking at my husband to help with the baby, and bitching about the dishes that pile up in the sink. How does that famous saying go? “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Yep, it’s hard to admit, but damn, it’s the truth. I’m no Mother Teresa when it comes to practicing what I preach.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we have to be perfect. Lord knows I am never going to be that. But what I can do is be more conscious of my behavior. Remember that there are little eyes always watching me – and their hearts and minds are incredibly impressionable. I can make an effort to be more positive & intentional with my words and let them see me rooting for the under dog.
But most importantly, I want my children to see me do the right thing when I do blow it. They need to see me apologize when I drop the ball and lose my shit. To gather myself, and then make it right. Because at the end of the day, we are all human, and are therefor bound to be jerks sometimes. It’s simply unavoidable. I would go so far as to say that even Mr. Rogers had his fair share of bad days when he just wanted to throw that damn sweater on the floor and tell his lovely neighbors to F-off.
Raising good little people is not as easy as telling our children “just be kind.” We have to work for it by modeling it in our own lives. Kindness is a choice, a conscious decision we must make daily, and it’s not always the easy choice. There will be mistakes, no doubt. We will make some bad choices and set bad examples for our children; but with bad choices come the opportunity for redemption. And our children are watching. We must teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s also important to own them.
So here’s the thing, at the end of the day, I hope that my kiddos choose compassion over anger, hatred, and jealousy. I hope that when they see a classmate sitting alone, or being bullied, they reach out and offer their friendship. I hope that they develop the capacity to be caring, thoughtful, and considerate human beings. But MOST IMPORTANTLY, when they fall short, which they will inevitably do, I hope that I have helped them to develop the integrity and character to graciously admit it. To own it. And to make it right.
We can tell our kids that it’s cool to be kind, but we’ve got to do them a solid and practice what we preach. Let’s try to remember that they are always watching and be more kind in our own interactions, take responsibility for our behavior, and always admit when we’ve been a jerk. Not only should we show our children what kindness looks like, we should also teach them the power of an apology.