A young man took his own life yesterday, just 4 days shy of his 16th birthday. He simply couldn't deal with being bullied anymore. I didn't know him except by face, he was a year ahead of my youngest and in band, so I when I saw his photo I recognized him from events. I have friends who knew him from band, PTA and football and by all accounts he was a sweet, funny young guy.
My heart breaks for his family. Especially his mother who in a couple of days will get up and know that she gave birth to a son on that date, but won't be able to hug him or wish him a happy birthday.
I have what is probably a controversial stand on bullying. Kids are mean little animals until you teach them to be respectable people. Today they seem to be learning proper behavior later in life, if at all. Why? Because parents aren't "bullys" anymore.
I don't in any way advocate abuse or violent behavior towards children, or anyone for that matter. I just think that kids today live with no consequences. That fear I felt when I knew my parents were going to find out about what I did in school. That wasn't such a bad thing. I knew that I would be held accountable for my actions and that there would be consequences. Kids today don't feel that fear. There are no adults trying to tame them from wolves into people. They only answer to their pack of other wolves and seek out the weak among their peers.
Adults need to go back into leadership roles. We need to be unafraid of saying "Knock it the F off" and unafraid of punishing our kids. Who cares if they like you right now, they'll like you a whole lot later when they grow up knowing right from wrong. You don't have to spank to give consequences. Unplug their electronic world. Make them do chores. Don't make excuses about why they need the phone or to get out of grounding early. It's easy to let them off the hook, but that's lazy. Suck it up and ride out the storm because you chose to be a parent and that's more than giving birth to a baby. It's a whole lot of work and some days it's not as much fun as others.
Not just parents. Other adults too. In middle school one of my daughter's friends was picked on in the locker room. A group of girls teased her about her body, told her she was ugly and that her family was poor. It continued on outside of school via social networks. (seriously, unplug them from time to time) My daughter got in trouble for intervening (not from me, I supported her choice) and the school mostly ignored the situation, even as it continued. I went in and talked to the VP and told her I was concerned about the behavior of this group singling out this one child. She assured me that there was no problem and she had spoken to the kids and made them apologize to each other. The VICTIM had to apologize to the bullies as well - that's what she mean by "apologize to each other". It frustrated me and I wrote a letter to the school superintendent letting know that I found the VPs attitude unacceptable. Not much happened. Likely because everyone is afraid of being sued when they raise their voice to a kid.
A few months later the ring leader of the group was put on long term suspension for more serious and aggressive behavior. Why did it have to escalate? Why couldn't they just tell her to knock it off or she would be in detention? Why didn't they call the parents in for a conference? Why were there no consequences until it got physical? Words cut too and those wounds are often deeper.
Kids argue and complain, but generally they LIKE being bossed around. They like the security of not having to be adults until they are ready. If they didn't, they would really really dislike me. Because of my job I deal with thousands of kids a year and it's rare that I find a child, pre-teen, or teen who dislikes me and I boss the heck out of them. Doesn't matter if I know them. Yesterday I told a perfect stranger (about 14) to open the door for a lady who had her hands full. He complied without a second thought. If my kid & her friends are nearby when I have stuff that needs doing, I'm going to put them to work. Kids also like being useful. They will deny it at the moment, but often they don't have to be asked twice. The second time they volunteer.
I entitled this "A certain kind of bully" because all leaders are bullies to some extent. Adults need to take back leadership roles and control the wolf packs our teens are becoming. Take responsibility for that child you brought into this world, and maybe some other kid won't feel like prey. Maybe some other parent won't have to wake up on their child's birthday and walk past an empty room.