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My previous blog centered around a specific (minor) event. A lady’s Letter to the Editor expressed her disappointment that “adults took away a girl’s moment” when the umpire at a HS varsity softball game made a call – per the rules – that voided the girl’s home run. If this was an isolated event, it wouldn’t be worthy of attention. However, it appears to me to be part of two bigger, serious, related, negative trends. 1) Many parents are so protective they are stifling their kid’s growth, and 2) Far too many people want to jump on the Victim bandwagon.
The above story came from my local paper. Today’s follow-up comes largely from the March 31 / April 1, Wall Street Journal. Nick Gillespie wrote a piece on bullying titled, PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1? Gillespie states that while not condoning bullying, he believes the problem of bullying is over rated. I believe the over attention on bullying is the intersection of the two problems above. Gillespie states, “According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported ‘being afraid of attack or harm at school’ declined to 4% from 12%. Over the same period, the victimization rate per 1,000 students declined fivefold… estimates of the percentage of students who are bullied in a given year range from 20% to 70%…The most common bullying behaviors reported include being ‘made fun of, calling names, or insulted’ (reported by about 19% of victims in 2009) and being the ‘subjects of rumors’ (16%).” Looking back at my own school days (I also was a skinny, glasses-wearing kid more bullied than bullying) I would expect the number of kids who ever experienced any of the above bullying behaviors to be closer to 90% and, if they were honest, those same 90% also contributed to the bullying at one time or another. Further, when I think about the bullies and the bullied of my youth, the bullies grew up to be business and community leaders, the bullied survived to raise families and pursue successful careers. Gillespie continues, “None of this is to be celebrated, of course, but it hardly paints a picture of contemporary American childhood as an unrestrained Hobbesian nightmare.” He then cautions, “Before more of our schools’ money, time, and personnel are diverted away from education in the name of this supposed crisis” we should distinguish between serious abuse and common childhood teasing (the latter paraphrased).
In our attempt to be good parents and grandparents what should we do?
First – don’t make mountains out of molehills. Let the kids solve problems for themselves whenever possible and appropriate. Remember when Mom would say, “You kids work it out. If I have to come in there, you are all going to sit in the corner for awhile.” In the same way that sandlot sports teach kids that (voluntarily) playing fairly maximizes everyone’s fun, letting them resolve their own social issues helps them mature. It sends a message that we believe in them and teaches lessons of self-sufficiency.
Second – This is a lesson for America in general – Get off the victimhood pity party, from Gillespie’s article, “Our problem isn’t a world where bullies run rampant; it’s a world where bullied kids are convinced that they are powerless victims.” As a society we have been giving away our personal responsibility and with it our power. Another “Mom lesson” remember, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Yes emotional hurts still hurt, but we can also choose to minimize the power of those words. We can choose how long we want to stay at the pity party. More than one lady at work has a sign over her desk, “Just pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.” We can teach our kids the same lesson.
Third – We need to make kids feel safe coming to an adult when the problem is truly too big for a kid – potential physical harm or threats, multiple kids ganging up on Facebook to pick on one, etc.
Fourth – We need to pick and choose what we watch and take away from TV and the internet. Contrary to what CNN would like us to believe, not all “late breaking news” is national new-worthy. This constant deluge of crisis-of-the-minute news is a creation of electronic media. Before 24/7 news, local news was in the local paper which came out once a day, and the evening TV news reported national news. It had to be nationally significant, with a few locally significant human interest stories added for balance.
We can not give our Grandchildren a better world if:
- Every problem they face is treated like a crisis.
- Adults act as if kids are helpless in the face of adversity.
- Kids don’t have at least one adult to turn to when faced with a really big problem.