Thoughts on the viral post about bullying

I am sure you all have heard about the post by a mom blogger in South Dakota named Stephanie Metz.  Here recent post, “Why My Kids Are Not the Center of My World” went viral after being shared on Facebook and the response has been strong in both directions.

I’d like to address her post. As a parent, our first priority should be to raise our sons and daughters to be respectful, independent members of society with a strong work ethic and moral compass. That is our job as parents. We need to raise them to be able to solve problems and figure things out on their own.  Not only does this help them to be resourceful, but it encourages their inquisitive nature.

While I do agree with Metz’s mention of the sense of entitlement children often have, I do not believe that we are raising wimps–I believe we are actually failing to raise children to be responsible citizens with empathy.

I cannot help but be alarmed by her ignorant comments on bullying and the sweeping generalizations she made about gender.  Apparently, according to Metz, all little boys like to play with guns. No. I don’t think so. Years and years ago, perhaps. Do they now? No. I can’t think of any of the boys in the own children’s circle of friends who were 2 and 4 and loved a little bit of gun slinging. This notion that boys play with guns and monster trucks and girls play with dolls and like to dress like fairy princesses is antiquated.

Metz mentions “critical thinking” in her post.  To be frank, I laughed at that reference–not out of being snarky, but because I really think I was just shocked that the term came out of the blogger’s mouth (or keyboard).  As critical thinking is defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence”, it is obvious that this piece involved thinking that was neither open-minded nor informed by evidence.

First of all, the blogger’s children are just 2 and 4, so we need to keep that in mind as it relates to real world issues her boys will face as they become school-aged children. I had much of that same sense of idealism when my own boys were 2 and 4. I had similar plans as to how life would be based on my own parenting. And as a mom of 8 and 10 year olds, REAL LIFE has taken over and we have had to adjust for it. That is what happens in the real world.

As a mom who has taught her children not to let people walk all over them, who HAS encouraged them to defend themselves, issues consequences, holds them accoubtable, and who doesn’t give into their whims, I don’t believe I coddle my children. They are very active, polite, well-rounded kiddos. We encourage them to partake in activities such as soccer, wrestling, lacrosse, and basketball. In fact, my bullied child takes karate 3 times per week.

I admit that is very disconcerting that Metz can make such blanket statements on bullying, especially given the tone she has chosen to take. Here is what she says on bullying:

“There was a time – not too long ago – when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money.  There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it (ask me how I know this).  Now, if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world truly has ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party.  And Sally – phew!  She should be jailed!  She should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like – gasp – a teenage girl acts.”

How flippant. I hope and I pray that Metz doesn’t one day find herself sitting in the pediatric ER with her 8 year old as he is tested for any neurologic impairments due to a concussion. That was our first experience with bullying at school. And I hope and pray that her sons never come home with bruises on his legs from being kicked by another child, pushed on the stairs, shoved in a locker and getting a bloody mouth, or punched in the eye, breaking his glasses. If those things happen, surely Metz’s boys just need to grow a pair and “toughen up.”  That IS her message in the viral blog post afterall, right? 

A large part of society’s problems stem from people who think like Stephanie Metz. It is because parents are failing to teach their children empathy. Bullying isn’t just a fact of life.  Bullying is REAL with lifelong (and sometimes life-ending) consequences. There ARE children who are taking their own lives.

According to Metz’s rationale, bullied children are ending their lives  because of “girls being girls” and “boys being boys”.

No. Some people are just sociopaths and thugs and it is NOT our children’s fault when they cross paths with people like that. I really am quite tired of people who have not been through this falling into the desctructive culture of victim blaming.  It is NOT the fault of the bullied child. It is the fault of people without empathy who are ultimately failing to teach their children empathy.

My son’s visible bruises and cuts have healed. His glasses have been repaired. Yet, the wounds that linger emotionally aren’t going to go away. And I will be damned if I will look at him and tell him to suck it up and toughen up. I am not a parenting expert. But I do know that any good mother would fight for her child and not make him feel like her did something wrong. A good mother would not just say, “Hey, being bloodied and bruised at school is normal. Suck it up and toughen up.”

I ask Ms. Metz to spend some time doing some actual research.  Not only can she study statistics, perhaps she could speak to mental health professionals and the parents of bullied children who have committed suicide. I ask her to reserve judgment until she actually can speak based on actual experience. I would suggest she read some great books on teaching empathy to children. Perhaps she will learn something. I recommend Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson, Ph.D. and Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child by Mary Gordon.

Let’s look at some good resources on bullying, folks:

Click here for a guide put out by New York state on the link between bullying and suicide-

http://www.nysenate.gov/files/SuicideBullyingBrochure.pdf

More on teaching our children empathy:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/key-to-preventing-bullying-lies-in-teaching-empathy-expert-1.1234953

http://voices.yahoo.com/when-parents-bullies-dont-teach-their-children-12150489.html?cat=25

And, read these recent stories of bullying in the news:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/us/felony-charges-for-2-girls-in-suicide-of-bullied-12-year-old-rebecca-sedwick.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/22/living/boy-bully-wiseman/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/bullying-public-health-issue_n_4241468.html

http://metro.co.uk/2013/11/14/simon-walters-boy-14-bullied-into-suicide-for-being-ginger-4187571/?ITO=Facebook

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Some thoughts on raising kids…

Today I would like to talk about something we ALL can do to help combat bullying and it begins with us as parents.

I truly believe that the best gift we can give our children is a proper upbringing. If parents instill proper values in their children right off the bat, nurture them, teach right from wrong, and model appropriate behavior, children will grow up to be adults with respect, morals, and values.  I realize there are exceptions to some situations and we can talk about that later, but I really believe that this begins at home and it begins with the parents.
When I was a child, I was taught about respect and kindness at an early age.  I knew that my elders were to be respected.  I remember my parents saying “You have to be a friend to have a friend” and “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” 
Using manners and living with integrity, demonstrating respect for others, and showing empathy and respect, etc. were things drilled into my head back as far as I can remember. I did as I was told.  It was really quite simple–you did what was expected of you or you had consequences. You listened to your teacher. I can’t believe the disrespect shown to teachers at times.
All too often in my own life, I also see children disrespecting their parents. I have seen children putting their hands on other kids and being mean right in front of their parents without fear of consequences. In many of these situations, there aren’t any consequences. So many parents stand by and watch this type of thing happen and they do nothing. These parents are part of the problem. Do not think that I am a hard as nails, rigid type of parent with a drill-sergeant persona.  I am not. We do not believe in spanking or any type of corporal punishment, for example. We personally do not believe that hurting our children is the right thing to do. An effective punishment is still good old “time out”. We also believe that modeling appropriate behavior (the way my hubby and I speak to each other and interact and the way the kids see us treat other people in general) and making our expectations clear right off the bat will help the boys grow up to become the kind of men we want them to be.
Our boys know what is expected of them. They know how to treat people. They show their elders respect and if they speak inappropriately or do something we do not feel is right, there are immediate consequences.
Our boys have been told that we will always love and support them, but if they ever treat another human being in a way that would be considered bullying, it will not be tolerated and there will be consequences.

This is something I have been thinking about a great deal lately. I have been trying to think about HOW a parent could justify or rationalize any type of bullying, whether it be verbal or physical. In thinking about this, I realize that I have even had some casual friends–fellow parents–who let this behavior slide and who make excuses for their kids.  It makes me feel guilty by association.  Does that make sense? 

My refusal to let this matter at school rest has even tested friendships of my own and has even questioned my ability to be a good judge of character. I don’t mean to ramble here, but something I am struggling with is the fact that not all of the people I would have considered friends even just a few days ago are supporting my decision to speak out about this. I will not, however, apologize for being an advocate for my child. In the end I realize, though, that true friends would be appalled by what happened to my son, right?