I’ve wanted to write about the ‘bullying’ epidemic for quite some time now. It has long been a cause that I have spoken about with various people in the community. But this week it seems much more of an emergency. Few of us have not been touched by the story of Rehtaeh Parsons. While the case seems to be in extreme in so many ways, it is sadly the story of all too many of our young people today.
First let me qualify what I mean by extreme. The mismanagement of the case by the police, the schools and mental health professionals, seems to be extreme mismanagement. The alleged actions of the four boys are quite possibly the worst actions that can be perpetrated against any one, and are extreme in that way. The method of the bullying was intense and wide spread, a very extreme way to torment any person. And sadly, the ends that befell a beautiful young woman are certainly extreme.
This stuff only happens in the movies, right? Wrong. They are happening all around us, every day. On the surface it seems that our society is doing all that it can to protect our young people from bullying. There is a no tolerance policy for violence in the schools. Kids are talked to about bullying and what they can do to help prevent bullying. There is a day for our kids to wear pink to raise awareness about bullying. There are many efforts by school groups to offer peer counselling and support to kids who are bullied. I’m sure there are many more that could be listed.
But is this enough? Obviously not, or things like what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons would not be happening. When you think of the efforts being made, they are all aimed at our children. Most of the bullying cases that we hear of are perpetrated by children, against children, so it would seem that teachi.ng kids would be the right place to start. It very well may be, but where are we teaching those kids about tolerance and acceptance for others, despite differences? Where do we teach these kids about empathy and dignity for those people who may not fit into the ‘mold’? How do we grow a better stock of citizen so that these things don’t continue to happen in generations to come? Who is responsible for this?
It is a long held belief that children learn what they live. Another is that actions speak louder than words. What does that mean here? It means children learn this behaviour somewhere. They learn it from the adults in their life. Parents, coaches, teachers, baby sitters, and so many others, have a hand in teaching all of our children, both from what they say, and in their actions. As the adults, we all need to be aware of our actions, all the time, even when we think that the children are not watching. How adults speak of one another, treat one another, and represent this to our children, affects them in profound ways. Kids pick all of this up; they are learning their behaviour somewhere
As adults it is incumbent upon us to act like adults, always. We must practice tolerance and acceptance toward one another, our children are watching. As adults we must treat our peers with respect and dignity, always, our children are watching. As adults, it is only by doing this that we can hope to grow a better stock of citizens.
Who is responsible for teaching tolerance, empathy, respect and dignity to our children? I am. You are. Every one of us is. Our children are watching.