Last month, a teenager walked into my former high school and opened fire in the cafeteria. No one was killed (thank God) thanks to the actions of a brave teacher, but everyone was in shock. It was a small town where “things like this” just don’t happen. But “things like this” are happening more and more.
It’s terrifying. I feel almost helpless and hopeless sometimes. I feel that my kids are all doomed to be strangled by the hands of bullying in some way, either by getting mixed up with kids who bully others, becoming a victim of bullying themselves, or worse–being in the crossfire of the bullying wars and getting shot.
I worry that no matter what I do, my kids will end up being psychos or the victims of a psycho’s rampage. Do I just throw in the towel now and say, “Forget it”? Is it really worth the effort? Is it really possible to raise great kids in this hateful, dark, and dreadful world?
We aren’t just dealing with the big Biffs picking on the little Marty McFlys anymore who learn to rise up, stand up for themselves, and ride away on skateboards. We are dealing with relentless bullies harassing, humiliating, and beating down kids who never rise up, who continue to get beaten down over and over until they snap and start shooting or end their own young lives–or both.
This is the world we are living in.
We can’t just blame the schools or smartphones or social media. Yes, bullying happens in schools. And yes, smartphones might as well just be guns in their back pockets because they are murdering our children’s self-esteems–and they can never escape from it all. They can never leave it all at school and retreat to their rooms to get some space. Bullying can follow our kids everywhere they go. And we can’t relate to the magnitude of the torment our kids are dealing with during such an emotional roller coaster time of their lives.
But the truth is bullying doesn’t just suddenly start when our kids open the doors at the school or when they get their first cell phone.
Bullying starts right in our own homes. It starts with…
- Allowing our kids to treat parents and siblings like crap
- Tolerating entitled, spoiled, ungrateful, condescending attitudes
- Setting no boundaries, no expectations, no consequences
- Allowing our kids to think they are better than everyone else
- Giving kids whatever they want whenever they want it
- Thinking things like, “They’ll grow out of it”, “It’s not my kid”, “Boys will be boys”, or “Girls will be girls”
- Raising the bar continuously so our kids feel they can never measure up
- Finding their identity in grades, athletics, appearances, and friends
- Using hateful words ourselves and being intolerant of others
Bullying can end in our homes too. It can end by
- Teaching our kids that everyone deserves respect
- Encouraging humble, compassionate, giving, kind attitudes
- Having healthy boundaries and loving authority over them
- Reminding our kids every day that they are special, unique, and God’s beautiful creations–and so is everyone else
- Giving them opportunities to be patient for what they ask for, work hard to earn what they want, and be grateful for what they already have
- Thinking things like, “My child needs help now”, “My child can improve in . . . “, “Boys shouldn’t be rude”, and “Girls shouldn’t be catty”
- Keeping the bar high expecting our kids’ best while surrounding them with grace
- Taking time to teach how to make mistakes and move on from them
- Finding their identity in Christ and family
- Using kind words ourselves and loving others no matter what
- Loving unconditionally
I don’t have all the answers and my kids may fall victims to bullying in some way no matter what I do, but I want to believe that positive, prayerful, intentional, and loving parenting can truly make a difference. I want to believe that my kids can be a light in this dark world, can be confident in who they are and in who God created them to be, can be kids who choose “that kid” on their team, can take the time to get to know the kid in the wheelchair, can hand someone a tissue for their nose instead of pointing and laughing at him. I want my kids to be different and not conform to the ways of this world.
I choose to believe it’s possible because I never want my child to walk into a school cafeteria holding a gun and I never want my child to be staring at the end of one either. Do you?