We are extremely saddened by recent bullying events that have led to suicide and it had us thinking about parenting and wondering if we, as parents, have to start really examining our own biases and feelings towards other people.
Think about it…what are you modeling for your child? What are you saying? What are you doing to show your child you are an empathetic, caring, compassionate human being? What are you teaching your children to make them understand that actions have consequences? One of the goals of KidSafe is to teach children how to use their inner safety voice — that little voice inside their heads that allows them to stop before acting– and to think about the consequences of their actions, all in the hope that they will make safer and smarter choices. It is hard for children to not react right away and to stop and question situations (just like it’s hard for adults), but we can teach them how to do this. They can learn this skill – but are we the parents modeling this skill too?
What Do Bullies Lack?
The recent Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after he was videotaped having sex with another boy and it was posted online – a major case of cyber bullying. We are disgusted and horrified – and we can’t help but wonder, what is lacking in these bullying children? Where is the compassion for people? Where is the tolerance? What are these children learning at home that makes them think this is okay – have they never been taught to treat people the way they would like to be treated?
What Can You Do?
Programs like KidSafe are trying to make a difference by teaching children empathy for others by discussion and role-playing real life situation to teach children how to handle safety situations. But, at the end of the day, our students go home to their parents. So ask yourself right now, what are you doing to help contribute to your child’s attitude about people and the world? What is one thing you can do right now to increase your child’s compassion for others?
Having the Hard Conversation
Take the time to sit down with your child and talk to them about bullying/cyber bullying/ respect/empathy, compassion and tolerance. Tell your child if you see someone being bullied, try to think how you would feel if it was you. What would you want and need? Then, be that person. We taught middle school children recently. They are all aware, confused and frightened of the latest cyber bullying suicides. We asked if they had spoken with their parents about it. One, only one, student’s parents had the courage and took the time to talk directly with their child about the issues. Perhaps we need to stop just living under the same roof as our children and start having real conversations.
Further Suggestions for Continuing the Conversation
1) All children need to know and be told regularly that they are loved no matter what. Parents, please have this conversation with your kids all the time — not just when they are in a moment of crisis or conflict.
2) Emphasize to your children that embarrassing, and perhaps awful, humiliating things do happen in life – and that yes – with the internet it is worse. BUT also remind them that as painful as the moment is, it will pass, the escape of suicide is not the option.
3) Help build your child’s confidence, increase their social circle, put them into situations in which they can do well and prosper. Show them life outside of the one in which they are living. Volunteer for others less fortunate, because at the end of the day you can usually find someone that has it much worse.
4) Remind your children that you are available and they can come to you with anything – nothing will be too daunting for you as the adult. Explain to them that there is always help and support out there and you will always be by their side.
We Want Better for Them
One teen’s callousness should not have the power to end another’s life. We need to keep this conversation going on both sides of this crisis. Parents can make a difference. Ask yourself, what kind of person do I want my child to be when they grow up? We hope it is the answer parents have been given for years – to be better than I was – to do better than I did. Well, that can only happen if we as parents raise ourselves up to be the best we can be.