It seems like every where I turn these days, I hear about bullying. Back in the Leave It To Beaver days, a bully appears to have been the largest child in the class. Evidently, his mother never sent enough lunch, as his bullying efforts were always about getting more food. There appears to have been an average of one bully per class. You would think someone would have thought to just ask his mom to send more food, but evidently the idea never crossed their minds.
Fast forward to today and it seems like the halls of our schools are full of bullies. Now, instead of using their tactics as a way to score more food, it appears many of these children are terrorizing their peers just for the “sport” of it or to get their way. Honestly. it is not just children who are experiencing this rude verbal and physical behavior from their peers. I have noticed a steady rise in the same behavior amongst adults.
I just had one of those milestone birthdays this week. One of the yucky ones where the light from the candles forces people to reach for sunglasses. In our culture, I have lost all value. My modeling career will never happen now (because we all know it was only a matter of time and not looks!) and if I accomplish anything during the rest of my life, I will most likely be compared to Grandma Moses. Of course, I now get that wonderful mid-life crisis, when I can live only to please myself in an effort to re-capture the glories of my youth. It is my time to be Peter Pan.
Peter Pan used to be looked down upon as irresponsible. Now, he has become the poster child for everyone who wants to stay youthful. Which, in our country, is just about everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for moisturizing and not being too proud to swing on a swing set in the park. My issue is with parents who want to be a co-conspirator with their child instead of a parent. Or the parents who believe being an adult means becoming a drill Sargent. Or parents who ignore many of their child’s needs so they can live the life they had before having kids.
I hope I don’t get kicked out of the teaching profession for spilling all of our secrets. I’ll be honest, quite a few professional educators I know get a kick out of disciplining misbehaving children in public without their parent’s knowledge. How is that possible? We have mastered the “look”, a powerful tool that conveys the messages “Have you lost your mind?” and “I know you aren’t doing what I think you are doing.” all rolled into one. It is amazing how many out of control children immediately cave in and behave when given the “look” (even by a complete stranger).
Good teacher training programs aren’t just about how to convey knowledge to your students. They also teach you classroom management techniques. A friend and I were talking recently. We had been education majors together in college years ago. We decided that majoring in education had made us better parents. We laughed about how the classroom management techniques we had learned worked just as well at home with our own children.
When my daughter was little, we went to a lot of those mother/child classes. I used to cringe every time the teacher gave any instructions to the children. My favorite part was always when the teacher would ask the children to sit with their mothers in the circle. My daughter would quickly come and sit beside me as instructed.
The other mothers’ children would continue to run around the room getting into things. Usually there were one or two mothers who felt guilty and began to try and convince their child to come sit beside them. “Oh, don’t make them come get into the circle.” the teacher would say. “They are too young to be expected to obey.” Suddenly all eyes would turn to me and my obedient child. The look was similar to that you would give a suspected child abuser.
A few years ago, some experts decided children with behavior problems suffered from low self-esteem. A campaign began to educate parents and teachers on how to improve the self-esteem of children to minimize bullying and other negative behaviors. It started out innocently enough. Parents were told to encourage their children instead of constantly criticizing them. Surely, there were quite a few parents who needed a reminder that constant criticism without some praise and loving words thrown in was potentially damaging.
But by the time my child reached school age, things were getting out of control. Children were allowed multiple chances to behave before a rule was enforced and consequences given. They were learning stop light colors and fractions more than they were learning to obey. There couldn’t be a dean’s list because the children who didn’t make good grades might “feel badly about themselves”. There were hardly any competitions, because it hurt a child’s feelings to lose.