Parents: Own Your Children’s Behaviour

I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens, what do I have to do so people will listen to me?

– Jamey Rodemeyer’s final post to Tumblr

July 19, 2018

Jamey Rodemeyer, aged 14, killed himself this weekend.  At 14, Jamey was just a boy.  He had endured years of bullying, at school and online.

We, as parents, are responsible for our children.  We are responsible for feeding them and sending them to school and making sure they’re healthy and clean.  We are responsible for loving them and teaching them how to love others.  We must treat them with respect and teach them to treat others with respect.  We can not control their behaviour, but we can, must, teach them what is right and what is absolutely unacceptable.  We must own this responsibility.

We can try to blame the school for not stepping in.  We can get angry with “the system” and wax furiously about the evils of the internet.  We can yell and scream and bang away on our keyboards about who should have done something to prevent this and where the fault lies and how we would have done things differently.  How we’re right and they’re wrong because everything is a contest to see who can curse louder and point fingers more ferociously.

But the truth of the matter is that it is no one’s fault as much as it is everyone’s fault.  It’s the fault of the bullies for being dicks.  They’re assholes now and they’re going to grow up to be adult assholes who raise asshole children who will, in turn, be asshole bullies.  It’s the fault of the school for being too passive with bullies.  For blaming the bullied, suggesting, even if the suggestion were simply implied, that if the bullied weren’t so ‘different’ that the bullies wouldn’t have ammo.  It’s the fault of the entire student body for not standing up and deeming that behaviour unacceptable.  For not accepting every single person for who they are.

It’s my turn to furrow my brow and point my finger.  Whose fault is bullying?  I blame the bully’s parents.  Like I said, we must own our responsibility of raising kind, considerate, compassionate children.  We must take this responsibility as seriously as we do feeding and clothing and sending them to school.  Treating other children cruelly should not, under any circumstance, be tolerated.  We can’t blame the other child.  If our child is acting like a prick, we have to own that and deal with it ourselves.  Nip that shit in the bud before someone gets more than just a little hurt.

Last year, Eirinn experienced a very, very minor instance of bullying.  I won’t get into any detail in case anything triggers an idea of who the offending child may be, but Eirinn came home one day and, through a series of questions I asked her, told us about an on-going situation.  I sat her down and explained that even if she wasn’t being hurt and actually wasn’t even aware that she was, in fact, being bullied, that she shouldn’t put up with it.  I told her to tell her teacher if it happened again.  I told her what to say to the girl if and when it happened again.  I told her that no matter what, she should tell me when something like this happens.  But finally, and emphatically, I told her that what this little girl was doing was wrong and that she was, under no circumstance whatsoever, allowed to behave like this girl was behaving.  That it was unacceptable.  That we are to treat people the way we would like to be treated.

…treat people the way we would like to be treated…

It’s a Six Degrees Of Separation type thing we have between us as parents and the way our children behave.  Some things we can be directly creditted for.  If we cuss in front of them and they, in turn, use the same foul language?  Our fault.  Blaming peers or movies or video games is ridiculous.  Own that.  If they hang out with other kids who get into trouble, or are themselves the instigator of trouble (heaven forbid!  not MY child!),it’s our fault for somewhere down the road making them think it’s ok or fun to behave that way, or perhaps we’ve done something to make them want to rebel against what we thought we were teaching them.  Or perhaps they see the way we ourselves act and mimic that.  Or they see the way we behave towards them.

If we bully our children, they will bully each other.

Yes, there is such a thing as free will and our children never grow up to be exact replicas of the people we’d hoped or dreamed they’d be.  Sometimes they’re more and better and exceed our wildest expectations.  Other times they veer off course somewhere and choose B instead of A.  This is why parenting is the most difficult job in the world.  When the going gets tough, we then must dig in and work harder or give up altogether.  We must decide to either excel or fail at parenting.

There is always someone to blame when a child dies, especially one who commits suicide, but the fact of the matter is we all need to treat each other better.  We need to cure the illness, not treat the symptoms.  We need to stop thinking it’s ok to call each other names.  The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is antiquated and a powder puff fairy tale.  Unfortunately, names can and do hurt.  They hurt to the bone and they don’t fade like scars and bruises.  If our children have grown up thinking calling their peers names in order to make them feel bad is funny or ok, we need to look at ourselves and ask what did we do.  Where did we go wrong?

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