Teach Your Children Well

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I can’t stop thinking about the post at No Points For Style on bullying.  It’s one of the most affecting things I’ve read in a long, long time.  Please read it.  And you’ll understand why I’m getting serious here today.

I’m going to start with two stories here.

The first happened last summer.  An acquaintance went to a town hall meeting held by her Senator.  The atmosphere was…contentious? Combative? Aggressive? However you describe it, it was loud.  My acquaintance at one point asked the woman next to her to lower her voice so she could hear the Senator.  The woman said “I’ve got a permit to carry concealed and I’m packing so talk to my purse”.

Yes.  You read that right.  A woman responded to a request to be quiet by all but brandishing a gun. Now I have no idea if my acquaintance was polite in asking the woman to be quiet.  She might have been snippy.  But still.  A gun.  A. Gun.

The second story made a lot of headlines.  In Florida, a girl sent a text message to a boy she didn’t know.  The text reportedly made comments about the boys’ recently deceased brother.  Which was not ok and if my kid ever did something like that and I found out about it, that phone would have been flushed down the toilet and my kid would find himself in a long course of sensitivity training before he could say “But Mom…” But this girl’s parents never got a chance to ground her because the boy who received the text responded by kicking her in the head with steel-toed boots until she had to be placed in a medically induced coma to save her life.

What are we doing to our kids?

There is a lot of coverage of the break down in civility in public discourse and a lot of coverage of bullying so extreme that it’s leading to suicides.  I am going to draw a bright line between these two phenomena right here and right now. Adults who are uncivil raise kids and teens who are uncivil.  It’s as simple as that.

It is a parent’s job to model the kind of behavior we want our children to emulate.  It’s not an easy task and no one says it is.  We all joke about the times we slip up and drop an F-bomb and have to spend the next six weeks correcting our toddler when he says that juicy new word.  But how often do we chastise ourselves when we’re chatting on the playground about how Jesse James is a total douchecanoe for cheating on Sandra Bullock and listing the things we’d do to him if he were our husband?  We don’t but we should because our kids are listening.  And we just told them that calling names is ok and plotting revenge is ok and they don’t know that we are not serious.

I am guilty of all of this.  I am especially guilty of it online where I write snarky remarks about all kinds of people because it’s a form of humor to me. But someday my son will be able to read and do I want him to think that I’m saying these things for any reason other than getting a laugh?  I do not.  I need to watch myself.

The language of hostility has become commonplace in the public square.  What was so shocking about the exchange between my acquaintance and the woman at the rally was not that it happened but that it was not unusual.  All over America packs of dissatisfied people gather and shout their rage from the rooftops.  Which is allowed.  It’s Constitutional.  It’s patriotic, even.  But the names they call public figures and the rhetoric about taking up arms and starting a revolution is being heard by young people.  The trash talk on tv talk shows is heard by young people.  The insults that fly from the lips of Simon Cowell every week are heard by young people. When Chris Brown lands a blow, young people look at their fists. And wonder if it’s ok to use them.

We all need to pull ourselves up short right this second and look at what kind of example we’re setting for our children.  We need to watch our own mouths (even us wisecracking bloggers) and make a point of having conversations with kids, even little kids, that impress upon them what kind of behavior is ok and what is not.  We can’t let Simon’s remarks wash over our family and expect the small people in our care to know that he’s an entertainer and the people he insults signed up for it.  We have to tell them that explicitly and tell them why that sort of exchange is wrong in real life.  Better yet, we should turn Simon the hell off and say to our kids “You know what? Let’s watch something where people are respectful to each other for a little while.”

Because someone’s life may depend on us doing right by our kids.

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11 comments for “Teach Your Children Well

  1. April 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Amen, sister. The state of our schools and our kids and our well, world, is frightening. We have to start fixing things somewhere and the easiest place is our homes.

    An elementary kid down here was beaten to a bloody pulp because he had red hair and freckles and South Park said it was “Beat up a Ginger” day. DON’T LET YOUR KIDS WATCH STUFF LIKE THAT!!!

  2. April 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

    “Adults who are uncivil raise kids and teens who are uncivil.” = Never truer words were spoken. AMEN.
    I truly believe this is the answer. So glad you agree!

  3. April 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Great post! I need to start thinking about this and correcting/censoring myself now while my son is still young. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

  4. April 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I am constantly moved to tears when I read about these kids.

    I was teased a LOT in elementary school. I was called horrible names because I was chubby, had red hair & freckles. It hurt, a lot and I still remember it to this day.

  5. Oka
    April 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

    What sickens me is the adults who act uncivil, believe it is their God given right to treat others with utter disrespect. Secondly, that they scream how mistreated they are by others.

    People have forgotten the golden rule of Treat others as you would like to be treated.

    If you are going to cuss at someone, expect be cussed back at.
    If you are going to insult someone, be ready to except those insults back.
    If you are going to gossip behind someones back, be prepared to be gossiped about.
    If you are going to physically confront someone, be prepared to get the same physical action (or worse back).

    If more of us would practice positive behaviors it would catch on.

    Smile at others, eventually they will smile back.
    Compliment someone, they will return it one day.
    Work to find solutions and other will work right along side you to get those solutions.

  6. April 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out!

    You know where I learned my superhero snark skills? In the backseat of my parents Chevy Impala. On the way home from church, they skewered the pastor’s sermon, the church’s Sunday School program, their friends’ parenting skills, etc. On the way home from an evening with friends, they took apart said friends’ politics, cooking, parenting, buying habits, etc. No one escaped their judgment, and I was in the backseat, soaking it all up.

    It took me a long time, in my adult life, to learn that not all people judge like that, and that I didn’t want to be one of the judgers. I’ve been explicit in teaching my children that we get to disagree with whatever we want to disagree with, but it’s never our place to judge, belittle, demean, or, you know, be mean.

    Hmmm…my post inspired your post which is in turn inspiring me to write another new post. We could go on like this for awhile…

  7. April 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

    So sad. I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and I do carry one a lot of the time, but it is for my own protection, not so I can go around threatening people who might disagree with me. Disgraceful.

  8. KLZ
    April 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I hate to get too personal here….but I’m going to get personal here. We’ve got a family member who can be downright nasty. Horrible.

    We have worked hard to make sure we don’t retaliate to show our son that you can deal with conflict without being vindictive. But we’ve really got to start watching our words about her when we’re not in conflict mode because our feelings sure slip out here and there. We’ve got to set a better example for him.

    So, I concur.

  9. Peg
    April 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    The crazy thing is… in many ways, it’s better now than it was 30 years ago. Because now, not just parents who majored in counseling know about the concept of verbal & emotional abuse. The stuff that happened to me, which was relatively minor compared to some of my friends, gets thwarted BIG TIME now. Are we all loving & considerate–heck, no! But at least we know enough to be able to call ourselves on our judgmental comments or general cruelty. It’s a start….

  10. April 22, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Did you see the article on People’s website yesterday? The Pheobe Price incident saved another girl’s life. What really jumped out at me in the article was that both the girl in the article and Pheobe Price went to school administration for help and couldn’t get any help. That goes right along with your post. Obviously kids aren’t going to be protected at school so if we don’t teach them at home to be decent human beings they could be on the other side of that screen someday and it will be our fault.

  11. Elaina
    August 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I was verbally assaulted and had to call 911 when I ventured out for the first time w/ baby #2 to the grocery store. A woman with a VERY large truck and an over-sized trailer hitch informed me I was not supposed to park behind her as if it were common-knowledge and I was an idiot.

    In a still-surreal-to-this-day-event…I was paged from the grocery store to the service desk…then asked to report to my car…to find a belligerent, poorly-educated she-man accusing me of parking up on her hitch.

    Still sporting maternity wear and carrying a car-seat to my car to greet this woman… I admit I was annoyed at having my shopping interrupted…and at the first hint of MY annoyance –it set her off like a drop of gas on an open flame.

    In a grocery store parking lot, I end up with my keys and my baby IN the car…while I gratefully still had my cell phone…outside the car…as I’m being chased by this woman who has lunged for me, tried to hit me and is calling me nasty names and threatening to kick my *ss.. This strange woman I’d not met 2 minutes ago had had her whole identity dishonored by me and my parked car. As if to reclaim her honor, she is now chasing me around my car like a rabid dog foaming at the mouth while I’m calling 911 and screaming for help.

    Never mind that she hadn’t even LOOKED at the bumpers…if she would have looked she would have seen it was optical illusion…it only APPEARED that her trailer hitch was under my bumper. In the end, she was simply annoyed—first, that I had been able to legally park behind her, and secondly, that I didn’t know this magic rule about big trucks and trailer hitches. There was no opportunity for civil discourse. She didn’t like the way I asked her a question…and the next I thing I know I’m screaming for help and screaming that I have a new born in the car w/ the windows up on a warm June morning…all of which fell on deaf ears.

    The woman drove away thankfully…but I caught sight of 2 children under 5 in the truck. Heaven help us…something tells me they were proud of mom and taking notes…but I’m only guessing. A kind woman who’d heard my screams came to stand with me as if to protect me so I could concentrate on my baby and the emergency dispatcher’s questions. The officer who showed up a few minutes later was kind but somewhat patronizing. He said he felt badly for me. However, other than paying this deranged woman a friendly visit…to explain that she really can’t conduct herself in such a way…he said there was nothing else to be done. He also told me he’d inform her of proper parking procedures regarding her oversized trailer hitch on her extended cab pick-up-truck.

    My health and welfare and that of my newborn’s had been jeopardized and there’s nothing to be done? Really? Really.

    I’m ashamed to admit that avoided that grocery for more than 6 months and in the last 15 months have only been back three times. Do you know to this day, I still am startled when the grocery store PA comes on…and I never park near any trailer hitches.

    I’m afraid it’s the folks who are far away from your wisdom…are the ones who need it the most. You and your postings though are very supportive, very refreshing and deeply appreciated.

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