Recently, I heard a story of an adolescent boy punching another boy on the school bus. The boy had been berated every single day, by the kid he punched, to and from school. Right, wrong or indifferent, with just a few weeks left of school, he lost his cool. He had been suffering silently under the hand of the other for almost a full school year, relentlessly picked on because he is a little bit different.
Two weeks prior, another student on the bus had written a letter to a school administrator expressing concern for the bullied child.
As the situation was being discussed amongst a few moms, a few camps emerged about bullying:
Kids Will Be Kids
There were the parents who say that bullying has been around forever. That it is a part of growing up. They opine that it is now such a buzz word and many situations are being blown out of proportion. They see most bullying circumstances as acceptable and part of life.
The parents who jump at any incident and launch the word bully at the slightest childhood folly.
The Middle Ground
And, there are the parents who land somewhere in the middle. They see bullying as part of growing up, but recognize that in many cases it is a real problem that it is further complicated by the social media landscape of today.
As I reflected on the occurrence I mentioned above, it brought back my own childhood memories.
Not memories of being targeted for being too skinny, or overly freckled, or having crooked teeth (thank goodness for braces), or frizzy hair, or for being a carrot top (well, except by that one girl in middle school, but she targeted someone different every week), but for those who picked on my older brother. Those who picked on him daily because he was an easy target.
My brother is physically and mentally handicapped and unwillingly became the target of other children’s amusement. They would pick on him, knowing he was particular about certain things, just to get a reaction out of him.
In his case and in many others, excuses are made for the ‘bully.’
They are gifted labels, such as insecure. Sometimes, it goes even farther with fabricating a theory that perhaps they aren’t treated well at home, so that is why they treat others the way they do.
In my heart, I want to be compassionate and show the offender grace for their own personal strife or misery, but then I think as well:
Why does the offender get the disability? Why do they get the excuse?
Is it to justify why they attack, why they are mean? Is it to somehow make the target feel better? Is it to make the target think that it is okay to be a target because somebody else has image issues? It is to give the bully justification for their wrong behavior?
I don’t think any of that makes sense.
Children can be mean. Some children are flat-out mean. Some children are taught to be mean.
As I have rolled this all around in my mind, over and over again, with a great and deep desire to provide a solution, and as I have tried to figure out how we teach appreciation and understanding of differences in order to stop the meanness, I had this epiphany:
The answer has nothing at all to do with understanding and teaching about differences.
It comes down to two things:
Being kind and being brave.
Because the differences don’t matter if you are kind to the person who looks and thinks just like you and the one who doesn’t.
You don’t have to consider what is different if you are brave to be kind and compassionate to any person.
The differences don’t matter if you are simply brave to stand up when someone isn’t kind or compassionate to another person.
The differences don’t matter if you are brave and demonstrate what it is like to be brave by showing kindness and compassion when others don’t.
The differences don’t matter.
Ask your child when they come home from school: who were you kind to today? Did you show anyone compassion today? Were you brave? And this really hard one: Were you mean to anyone today?
There are still people out there who don’t believe the declaration that “all men are created equal.” Be brave and show them they are. And, as I tell my children when they are unkind to one another:
“There isn’t room in this world for anymore mean people. There is only room for more kind ones.”
If you would like to learn more about bullying, or if you think your child might be a victim of bullying or perhaps is the actual bully, please click here.
And, so I do not stray from my quest to provide you some nugget of knowledge to help your mama brain, here is a quick snip-it about the United States Declaration of Independence. After all, I quoted it above.
Please be brave and be kind on your journey.
The Declaration of Independence
On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a committee of five, to explain, within a written document, the decision to declare independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson was nominated by the group to write the initial draft. The other committee members were: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman.
Once Jefferson completed his draft, it was reviewed and edited by the other four committee members and was submitted to Congress on June 28th. The document was ordered to “lie on the table” by Congress for two days while they methodically reviewed and edited the document. They shortened the document by a quarter and improved sentence structure.
On July the 2nd, a vote was cast and the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain forming a new nation, the United States of America. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was ratified marking July the 4th as Independence Day.
Here is an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, which includes the well-known statement I quoted above, “all men are created equal.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
If you want to see the real deal, you can journey to Washington D.C. to the Library of Congress. Housed there is Jefferson’s original draft, complete with changes made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin as well as Jefferson’s notes of changes made by Congress. The copy that is regarded as the official Declaration is in the National Archives in Washington D.C.
Journey on and please be brave to be kind!
xo, Melissa a.k.a. the mamabrain at mamabrains