There was an interesting show on Dateline tonight about bullying and teens and encouraging kids not to stay silent about it if it's happening to them or to other kids. It was heartbreaking to see how upset some of the kids were as they related the stories of being bullied themselves, and how many 'bystander' kids did nothing and allowed it to happen. There was one girl who spoke up so courageously against the bullies and was trying to defend the bullied. It was amazing to see this young teenager so strong and so poised in such a tough situation.
It made me start to think about how I'm going to teach any of this to the boy. He's young still, not quite three, and home with me, so he doesn't currently face a lot of opportunities to bully or be bullied. But even now he does face some kids who aren't nice to him, who push him at the water table, or eat his snack. When does that become bullying? And how do we teach him to stand up to it when he sees it?
We try and teach our kids manners, to say 'please' and 'thank you', to be respectful to adults, and kind to others. In his book, The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett (one of my favourite authors) says “Them as can do has to do for them as can't. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.” I really believe this, and I think this is so important to teach our kids too. If we all spoke up for those who felt powerless, or unable to do so, then bullies would lose their power. This applies not just to school yard bullies, but toxic workplaces, bad relationships, and society as a whole.
So what do we do? None of us want to raise bullies, none of us think, “Oh when Johnny grows up, he's going to terrorize third graders everywhere,” but it does happen. We need our kids to know what we want for them and expect of them. We all want the girl shown on Dateline tonight who stood up to the bullies. We need to make sure that our children will be the ones who “speak up for them as has no voices.” And first thing tomorrow morning the boy and I are going to be talking about it.