We don’t know how

It was a PSA.

A radio ad about bullying.

About how YOUR child might be a bystander who wants to DO something and so, we must empower them to DO something.

And the best thing they can do, is “go tell a caring adult.”

And “you can BE that caring adult. You can BE the person they can come to.”

And I thought, Sweet.

But… that caring adult is supposed to do, what, exactly?

I mean, I am a caring adult and I am still kinda weirded out when two twelve year old kids with swaggers and cockeyed ball caps walk by the house. I leap into “get offa my lawn” mode pretty quick (witness my massive overreaction to the harrassing, by said twelve-year-olds of our chickens, two summers ago)

This, despite my  yearning for the kind of neighborhood where I know those kids’ parents because I guilt-trip them into buying girl scout cookies or something.

Crabby old lady alert, red alert:

I think we supposed grownups are wussies these days when it comes to helping children.

We want to insulate them, keep ’em in a safe perimeter — because I think, in some ways, WE are freaked out about what lies outside that perimeter. Warranted, or, mostly, not.

These days, we “adults” are (rightly) leery of claiming authority based on simply being bigger and older.

Amen. Being bigger and older doesn’t necessarily confer authority on a person, certainly no right to throw one’s weight around.

So we reject the notion that:  “I big, you small, I say, you obey” — and what seems to happen is a lot of grownups seem to feel like there is no other way to insist on certain behavior. Heck, “insisting” even sounds kinda pushy, no?

But if it isn’t “my way or the highway”— what do I do? I mean…. if I can’t just Insist because I am the Adult…. and if I really do doubt my own authority (’cause if it’s not based on my “bigger older-ness, what IS it based on??)

My authority is based on my experience. BUT that really only matters if my experience includes the things I am talking about! If I say that it isn’t OK to dominate others or to throw my weight around, I have to LIVE that way for it to mean squat, and carry the authority that comes from experience.

I believe this:

* It is essential that adults help children learn to be engaged members of their communities, from smallest (family, playgroup) to largest (world).

* Adults have experience and skills that children do not, yet.

* Instead of the adult as enforcer, power-broker, and rule-maker, the adult is the storehouse of experience. “Well, when I have tried X, it sometimes goes like this.”

Oh—- scary. This means we must actually put our actions where our hopes for our children are.

If our children are to believe us when we tell them it’s right to “just tell them you don’t like it when xyz” — guess what? We need to DO that. We need to tell someone when their actions hurt us, bother us.

“Hey, cubicle-mate, it bothers me when you have personal conversations on your cell-phone.”

Does that seem hard to do? It would feel really challenging on some levels for me. Yet I expect a child to be able to say, “I didn’t like it when you…..(fill in the blank.).”

Or if that situation feels just fine, what if we raise the stakes?

“Hey, husband, it makes me crabby to face a sinkful of dishes after a 12-hour work day.”

Or, “Hey, friend, it bothers me when you show up late. I feel unimportant.”

Doing this takes guts and integrity. Often, we ignore, minimize, and/or talk to others about our hurt, rather than address it directly.

Yet we ask it of children all the time.

The stakes on the playground are often excruciatingly high. Children are not able, a lot of the time, to take a broader view of a painful situation in which they feel trapped. That’s true at times for the bully AND the bullied.

We want to break that cycle. I am afraid that we (collectively) don’t know how. And in fact, we can’t break it for THEM without being committed to breaking it in and for ourselves, first.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “We don’t know how

  1. holy amen, Grace… we’re in the midst of this right now… and I so identify with not being able to break that cycle for myself without feeling like I’m coming off as a bitch, a nag, or self-serving… but want my daughter to stand up for herself and say to her friends, peers or even elders that she doesn’t like the way something makes her feel. ARGH! You nailed it.

  2. Sing it sister. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I did this very thing today…stood up…and it was met with defensiveness but, still, I stood. Deep breaths. Thank you.

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