Sometimes I mentally rehearse how I would respond if my family were in danger. If an intruder broke into my home what would I do? If we were attacked on the street would I be courageous enough to protect them? I am not sure what gets me thinking about these things, and many times I try to put them out of my mind. Today however, I watched the documentary Bully directed by Lee Hirsch, this film has got me stirred up again, but this time it is more disturbing.
In my fantasies of family danger I am powerful, swift to action, and able to put myself in the place of my children when they are in danger. Bullying is a much different beast. Those who bully tend to be more covert, they have practiced and honed their skills, and many times they are bullied themselves. The problem with bullying is how powerless adults seem to be in protecting those who are bullied.
Bullying usually does not occur when adults are around, adults cannot sweep in and meet might with might. In many cases, as depicted in the film all adults can do is talk with the one who is bullying. They sit in an office and rationalize about kindness, respect, friendship, and permanent school behavioral records. It all just seems very weak and vividly demonstrates a universal principle that adults hate to admit.
“ADULTS CANNOT CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF CHILDREN”
I think we hate to admit it because of how scary it is. Aside from physical coercion we have absolutely no control over the behavior of children. I cannot make my son clean his room, do his homework, be kind to the neighbor, or apologize to his brother. Children tend to behave based on what they perceive will get them the thing that they want. Many times we adults do not understand the pay off for a child’s behavior and therefore fail to find a way to change it.
I think one solution to this problem is to stop trying to control something that we cannot. We cannot control a child’s behavior so let’s give it a rest. Let’s be real and honest with our kids. Let’s end the charade we have been perpetrating all these years and tell them the truth.
“SON, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN CONTROL YOUR ACTIONS”
I believe that when we let go of attempting to control our children they will become better citizens. Please do not misunderstand me I do not think children should be allowed to do whatever they want, have no rules, and no responsibility. I believe that adults should set the structure and expectations for behavior so that WHEN the child crosses the line appropriate and logical consequences follow. Adults have fallen into the trap (myself included) of wanting to control a child’s behavior in order to get a certain outcome. This outcome based parenting sends the message that adults control the child’s behavior; I want to send the message that kids are in charge of their behavior. They are able to choose their actions and the consequences that follow are part of their choosing. When adults control behavior, children can blame the adults for the following consequences both good and bad. When children control behavior the consequences are theirs, they own them. These owned consequences are the powerful payoff that reinforces or discourages certain behavior. This is how children learn that they can make life what they want it to be. In the long run children that know they are in control of themselves are children that step up to stop bullying. These type of children will “Be More Than Bystanders” by engaging in the following activities
- Be Their Friend
- Tell a Trusted Adult
- Help Them Get Away
- Don’t Give Bullying an Audience
- Set a Good Example
Bullying is a very difficult problem. Solutions must be long term rather than short term. All adults must play a role in protecting and empowering children at school and in neighborhoods. A first line defense is to remember that children are in charge of their own behavior. We want them to be in charge of their actions because when they are in charge they are actively choosing what they want life to be.
For Further reading on how to empower children to stop bullying visit stopbullying.gov