BY TAVA HOAG
Crossing the fine line between teasing and bullying is not difficult. However, today with the multitude of anti-bullying, violence and cyber bullying campaigns it’s very difficult to distinguish between teasing and bullying. The big question is, are counselors, teachers, and parents overemphasizing bullying, and if so is this making today’s children oversensitive?
Things are getting a little ridiculous because we are teaching the youth of today, to never take criticism, to never stand up for themselves, and to run to an authority figure anytime their feelings are hurt. Does this sound healthy? I don’t think so. By over emphasizing the negativity associated with bullying and drilling it into kids’ heads that it is NEVER to be tolerated, we are robbing them of their independence, and stunting their ability to deal with conflict and handle rejection.
Amy Hatch, a freelance writer for Huffington Post seems to believe that how we, as adults deal with bullying deeply affects our children. She feels that helicopter parenting is wrong and that it actually can make children less likely to solve their own problems. She advises parents, “Making a big deal out of the little stuff will give you less credibility and diminish your power to advocate for your kid when it really counts. Don't forget the tale of the little boy who cried wolf.” There will most certainly be points in a child’s life when a parent needs to step in and address the situation.
Bullies are everywhere and some will go as far as to physically assault their victims instead of verbally abusing them. This is not okay, but what about words of hate? Are those okay? I understand that this is a sensitive issue and there are many people who have taken their lives as a result of bullying, but perhaps, the only reason children and even some adults are so affected by bullying is because society has started making such a big deal about it in the first place.
Think of the youth back in the 60’s and 70’s, bullying was a way of life then. We’ve all seen movies where a dorky kid gets picked on by a big jock, but in the end all is right with the world and both children realize that they can learn something from one another. Kids grew up learning to deal with that bully, some stood up for themselves, others ignored them and some tattled, although that didn’t always go well. Most bullies will pick on people because they have insecurities themselves. Maybe it would be beneficial for kids to try and understand the bully, to talk to them and make friends, to a certain extent of course.
It’s essential to realize that not all bad actions/behaviors are a form of bullying. People throw the term “bullying” around too easily when they have no proof that the action even occurred in the first place. Then every accidental bump, look or comment becomes a case of bullying, and the person committing these small infringements ends up being punished. The next generation could end up entering adulthood as weak human beings who fantasize too much.
Kids role play growing up which prepares them for what the real world has in store. According to an article written by Ute, (a multilingual mother of three) on the blog expatsincebirth, “Role play stimulates childrens’ imagination and enhances their social development, encourages friendship through cooperation, listening and turn taking”. Ute has her Masters in bilingualism from the University of Zurich, and uses her blog to write research based articles on a child’s displacement from their home country and the effects it has on their behavior and personality. Based on her article, role play is a really vital activity for children. Most children- myself included- can learn many skills and attitudes during role play, especially how to be cooperative and empathetic with others. They can learn to express all their feelings. As a child, I often found myself challenging what my parents said, just to gauge what I could get away with. I tried on different personalities like a a new outfit, in an attempt to find myself in this world.
If we eliminate all bullying and refuse to tolerate even the tiniest bit of it, we are allowing children to develop without testing boundaries. The potential bullies will never get reprimanded for being too bossy and the pushovers like myself, will never learn to step up their game and become tough. The absence of bullying leaves these children wandering around a world, oblivious to the unfair, cruel, scary and forceful reality they will end up living in one day.
Today, kids haven’t the slightest clue about how to take criticism, from peers or adults. They automatically assume they are being attacked or picked on and will go and claim that’s it unfair and hurts their feelings/makes them feel unconfident. News flash kids, not everyone is going to like you or want to be your friend and the sooner kids realize this, the faster they will become happy in their own skin.
It took all of middle and high school for me to figure out that it doesn’t matter what people think of you and a lot of the time I was miserable trying to make the bullying stop, instead of just ignoring it. I, along with many children came home from school, crying because someone wouldn’t be my friend or I was picked last in gym for teams or better yet, someone stole my seat at lunch. My parents then would baby me by calling the school and having the “situation” rectified when, in reality none of these examples are really bullying. It’s true that these children may be rude, but their actions are too harmless to be bullying. Society is quick to judge negative actions, especially in children’s’ lives and because of this we are losing our right to not like someone else or to disagree, because god forbid you get caught doing hurtful things, lest you want to be labeled as a bully.
It’s time for a little tough love to be inserted back into the lives of children. If they come home from school or practice upset about someone being mean to them or hurting their feelings discuss it with them. Ask them why it hurt their feelings and then tell them to ignore it or brush it off. It’s when it continues to get worse and worse that you should consider stepping in. Trust me, they will thank you for it later because you will be saving them years of disappointment. Not everything in their life will be happy and so it’s important that they learn to ignore the hatred of others. The world should want our children to grow up strong and ready to stand up for their beliefs and what’s important to them. So parents try to stand down, let your child be made fun of for wearing an ugly sweater or forgetting to zip up their pants after going to the bathroom, it might hurt their feelings at first but in the end it will give them the courage and confidence it takes to be their individual selves without a worry in the world.