Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Examples We Set

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (5/23/2012):

“A good example holds twice the value of good advice” ~ Unknown

As the days have gone by since receiving the phone call from the assistant principal regarding Noah and his bullying incident, I have had a lot of time to think about all of the outside (and inside) influences that are in his life that may have contributed to his actions.  I look at those of us in his life, as well as things like television and video games.  I am constantly telling him that he needs to keep himself in check because he is now an example to his baby sister.  But what kind of example am I being to my children?

In all of our talks that we had during the initial phase of him getting into trouble at school, I told Noah repeatedly that he was no better than anyone else.  I asked him where he ever got the idea that he had any place to stand and ridicule anybody else for his perception of their failures.  “How dare you!” I said sternly.  But when I stop and think about it, I would be lying if I said that I never acted better than, or superior to, someone else; we all would.  I can remember, as a middle schooler, being in choir, knowing that I had a relatively good singing voice.  I had done my first solo as a fourth grader, so sure I knew I could sing – and I knew that I could sing better than some of my classmates in choir class.  Did I ever make fun of any of them, acting like I was better?  I hope not, but I honestly don’t remember.  In high school, I joined journalism and became an editor on the school newspaper, and yeah, I knew that I could write.  I knew that I wanted to write as an adult, for my profession, because I was “just that good.”  Did I ever make fun of any of my classmates for their spelling and grammar mistakes?  Probably.  I will openly admit that one.  I have a hard time even now keeping my mouth shut on those.  However, just because I may write better than someone else doesn’t mean that I believe myself to be better as a person than they are.  But now, years later and all grown up, what kind of example am I to my very easily influenced twelve-year-old, and for that matter, my soon-to-be seven-month-old baby girl?

I know that there have been times that I have been out and about and have seen someone who was dressed in what I decide is “odd,” with body parts hanging out that, in my opinion, should NOT be.  So I am sure that I have made remarks, and yes, in front of my child.  We ALL have done this – and nobody better comment and tell me that they haven’t – or else www.peopleofwalmart.com wouldn’t exist.  We all have pointed and laughed at others, as adults, for one reason or another.  But just because we have all done it doesn’t make it any more okay.  I have been more and more aware of these kinds of actions in the past few weeks, keenly aware that I can no longer stand in ridicule of anyone else if I expect my children to hold to those same standards.  Yesterday, this thought came blaring back to me as we were leaving, of all places, Wal Mart.  A woman that I have seen there before was entering as we were about to leave.  She is in a motorized chair because of a disfigurement – she has a regular sized, large torso, but with very small and disfigured arms and legs.  I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I was checking out, and soon Noah was staring and saying, “Mom!  Pssst.  Look.  Over there.”  I kept checking out, refusing to turn in her direction.  This then prompted a long lecture as we were leaving about staring or making comments or making fun of anybody, much less someone with a handicap or disfigurement.  I was mortified once again.  I know that young children stare and say things about people because they don’t yet understand that they shouldn’t – but HE is old enough to know.  But kids learn that it is okay to do it by their parent’s example, don’t they?  It really got me thinking, and it really got me thinking that while I don’t do that on a regular basis, I AM guilty of it, which probably makes me a hypocrite in Noah’s eyes.  So just like he, together we will have to start thinking before speaking and/or reacting.  I want my children to treat everyone as their equal, not ever as inferior or less than.  I have been treated that way and don’t like it; so I know that others don’t either.  Now, if everyone else could just take a self-examining look within, just think of how different the world would be and how differently we would – and could – all treat each other?

Change begins with a whisper ~ The Help

As seen this week on TheNextFamily.com (5/9/2012):

“Often the right path is the one that may be hardest for you to follow. But the hard path is also the one that will make you grow as a human being.”
Karen Mueller Coombs, Bully at Ambush Corner

This is hard to talk about.  It is embarrassing, humiliating, and somehow a reflection of how my parenting has somehow taken a wrong turn.  I am one who has no tolerance for bullying – EVER.  When my oldest son was bullied in high school by some redneck kid (because his mom is a lesbian), I took action, went to the school, talked to an administrator, and it was straightened out and over.  When my youngest son was bullied this year in middle school by a snarky girl (because his mom is a lesbian), I took action, called the teacher, who spoke to the counselor and together they dealt with it.  So imagine my absolute horror this morning when I receive a call from the assistant principal of the middle school:  my son was in her office…for bullying. 

She proceeded to tell me that he and another student had gotten into trouble during band class for talking too much, and when they didn’t stop, they got sent to the office.  The other student had told my son to “shut up,” but when pressed for the reason, the truth came out that it was because my son had been picking on him for weeks during band.  Teasing him and making fun of him when he got notes to the music wrong, or for making a mistake while they were all playing.  I hung my head as I heard her tell me that while my child had told the truth and admitted his role, that it was indeed a form of bullying, and she had just suspended another for ten days for the same thing.  What do I say?  What do I do?  I was immediately at a loss, and wanted to crawl under a rock.  I told her that I absolutely did not understand where it was coming from, considering he had gone through the same thing just a short time ago in the school year.  She also knew about the previous incident, and therefore didn’t quite understand herself.  So she said that she wanted to put him into in-school suspension for today, and for the two days following; I told her I was absolutely behind her one hundred percent.  But now I have to figure out what to say and do when he gets home – there has to be consequences here as well.  I am just at a loss. 

I have thought about it all day, since I got the phone call.  When I called Erikka, she was at a loss as well.  We have both seen how he can be with other kids, and have had talks with him about the way that he treats others.  We know he is very intelligent, but with that comes the problem that HE knows he is very intelligent.  We have seen and heard him with other kids, talking down to them like they are dumb, or not as smart as he.  So now he is apparently talking down to kids in band, speaking to them like they aren’t as good as he is as well.  After years and years, for as long as I can remember, he has been taught tolerance and to treat others as he would want to be treated.  We don’t believe that we are better than anyone else, so I’m not sure where he would obtain this arrogant attitude.  It is very troubling to me, as his mom, just as it was troubling when he was being bullied by someone else.  I absolutely cannot abide my kid being THAT kid – but how do I stop it?  I will, of course, call his dad this evening, and I am sure that he will want to talk to him.  It just seems that no matter what any of us say to him, or take away from him as punishment, nothing seems to get through.  I think this is what is the most disturbing to me – consequences don’t seem to phase him.  How do I get through to him, to make him see all of the potential that he possesses in that magnificent brain, if only he would use it for making himself into a productive and successful person on planet Earth?

What do you do when it’s YOUR kid who is the bully?

I tearfully told him of my disappointment, embarrassment, and disgust over his actions.  I told him about the little boy who lived a few miles from us, who killed himself three years ago at the age of nine, because he was bullied.  That boy would be twelve today, and in the sixth grade.  I told him that I could not tolerate my child being part of this horrible problem of bullying in this nation.

“Noah, you absolutely cannot be part of the problem, and it is a very big and very real and very wrong problem.  You MUST be part of the solution.  That kid that you picked on may not have very many friends, and what if you were the factor that pushes him to suicide – you don’t want to live with that kind of guilt.  Every one of those kids that have killed themselves over bullying experienced someone who was part of the problem – the bully.  You don’t want to be that person.  You can be part of the solution.  You can be his friend.  We can never have too many friends.”

“You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down.”   ~ Jeffrey Benjamin