Raising Kids: Bullying

Meanness or teasing on the basis of skin color is not worse than other types of teasing. The villainy of making fun of others is something that is out there. Everyone has experienced it, and most of us (including me, to my shame) have been on both sides of teasing. Motherhood means that I pray my children will be strengthened by brutal winds, shaped into arrows of light that go out into the dark world for the purposes of God. Being a mom means I don’t ever want my kids to be broken by pain in irredeemable ways or, for my children to play a part in breaking others.

Bullies are like wounded animals: They are looking desperately for vulnerable prey. A bully preys on a soft heart – an open heart. Sometimes hearts are open for healthy reasons – because they’ve been taught love and gentleness and acceptance. Sometimes hearts have been torn open by pain and negligence. In both cases, hearts are open to predatory cruelty.

People usually pick apart the things that we have no control over, no choice about. They roast us in an attempt to deflect their own insecurities as they project onto us. I think what’s most painful about bullying is: We’re all special, shining our own rays of creative and humorous and practical and generous light into the world. That light could be used to grow beautiful things.

Bullying attempts to put out that light. And parents have a role in halting this behavior.

Parents, do me a favor. Talk with your kids about being respectful. Not to bully kids about clothing, shoes, speech, weight, looks or in my child’s case, food allergies.

Having food allergies is not a choice. It’s our unfortunate reality. So when my child comes home in tears because children make fun of her “healthy food”, it makes me sad for humanity. I’m no looking for pitty [sic], just parent your children to be respectful…and not rotten. Do your job. Good thing my kid will have tough skin and yours will be the wuss with no backbone who feels the need to pick on people. Shame on you parents. Quit being your child’s friend. Once again, DO YOUR JOB.

This is a Facebook post by Christina Popolla Vlietstra, published on May 17, 2018 at 6:53 pm (CST). A lot of people agree.

I agree. Parents, we need to listen to ourselves talking. Moms, dads, guardians, we need to lead with good energy. The ugly things – interactions and experiences that tempt us to say the ugly stuff – have to be arrested and put away, set apart for God to deal with. And then we need to stand up for the light. By choosing not to say things in front of our kids… Things they’ll pick up on and wave like a banner in classrooms and on playgrounds and in every arena of life.

Our kids are loyal to us. And they will try to carry our family banner in their own ways. They will stubbornly stand in their family motto.

What is your family motto? What is the banner your children will wave? Is it respect? Does it allow others to exist without shame? Does it make other people wonder if something is wrong with their hair or diet or skin or clothes? Is your family motto causing your children to go out into the world and interact with other kids in ways that result in therapy bills for everyone having the misfortune to interact with them?

As parents, we can’t just sweep our kids’ words and actions under the rug. Yes, first and foremost we have to be their advocates and protectors. Part of that advocacy is making sure that we’re on guard about when things are going sour inside our little ones – when their mouths and hands are becoming a destructive force, rather than a force for good. Are we raising superheroes or, villains?