Thursday, October 20, 2011

Teaching Moms not to Bully

I'm not sure how to start this blog post because I know it will offend people and that is not my intention.  My intention is to raise awareness of what we are teaching our kids.  I don't just mean what we tell our kids, but what we teach them by our own actions and our own words.  Recently I was sitting in a restaurant with my grandmother and overheard a conversation at the table behind me.  Usually I don't listen to other people's conversation, but these women were not being exactly quiet.  These women (not high school girls, not college girls, women approximately in their late 20s, early 30s) had their small children with them.  Their conversation consisted of statements such as "did you see so-and-so this morning at the school?  She has put on some weight, and did you see what she was wearing?"  The response elicited another string of catty remarks that went back and forth for the entire lunch.  This conversation was bad enough on its own, but throw in the fact that there were two little girls sitting at the table with them and that made it even worse.  What they were essentially doing was teaching those little girls to judge people by their appearance, and that it is ok to talk about people behind their backs.  Kids (especially girls) have a hard enough time in today's world learning what is good and what isn't with what is shown on TV, even kids' channels such as Disney, and the last thing they need is their mothers and role models showing them that it is ok to be a bully (yes, I said bully).  Those women in that restaurant were bullies.  It's not the form of bully that you hear about where kids are being taunted and pushed to the limit, but anyone who makes someone feel bad about themselves is a bully.  I'm sure that those women don't want those people that they were talking about to know what they were saying, but I'm pretty sure they also probably don't go out of their way to make those people feel good either. 

I'm sure you know women like these.  You either grew up with them, have seen them, have been their victim, or decided to join in with them (meaning you are one of them).  If you are one of them, my goal is not to offend you, it is to make you aware of your actions and what they do to others.  It is to show you what you are teaching your children to do.  I overheard that conversation in that restaurant over a month ago, but the reason that it resurfaced in my mind again was because what they were doing hit close to home this week.

One of my daughters is in kindergarten this year.  This is my child who is full of energy, bubbly, never met a stranger, animated, and the life of the party (descriptions that have been given to her by pre-k teachers and daycare teachers, not just by me).  She was so excited to start kindergarten this year, couldn't wait to be in school like her big sister, couldn't wait to learn to read, and most of all to make new friends (which has always been easy for her).  As the school year has progressed, I have asked her everyday who she played with at recess, but I keep getting the same response, "nobody."  Eventually I asked her why she wasn't playing with anyone, I thought maybe she was choosing, for some reason I couldn't fathom, to play alone.  Then she told me that she wasn't playing with anyone because nobody wanted to play with her.  Every time she asked someone to play with her they told her no because they had other friends and didn't want anyone else to play with them.  I decided to investigate this further and had a talk with the teacher.  The teacher confirmed what I had already figured out: my daughter's class is full of catty little girls.  Little girls who make others cry at lunch because they won't let other ones sit beside them because they don't like them.  Being a mother, this has completely broken my heart. 

I have always taught my daughters to be nice to everyone, and to my knowledge they always have.  No, they are not perfect, but they are good kids.  When I say that I have "taught" my daughters this, it means that not only have I told them this, but I have shown them how to be nice through my own actions.  To the mothers that I overheard that day at lunch and to all the ones who weren't there but are guilty of behaving this way, why would you want your kids to be this way towards others?  How would you feel if your kids were the ones being treated this way?  How do our kids ever stand a chance in this world if we don't teach them compassion and empathy for other people?  Please do yourself and everyone (especially your children) a favor and take a look at how you behave and how your children see you behave; then ask yourself if you would want your kids to behave as you do.  If your answer is no then maybe I am talking to you.