I noticed something when my daughter was being bullied by one of her best friends. It was simply this: a lot of the parents I know were kinda bullying each other.
Think I’m crazy? It’s not that these parents were knocking into each other or making obvious attempts to make others feel left out, alone or insulted (although I know a few parents who behave that way, too! Jeesh!) No, these parents were all about talking about other families, kids or individuals in a really unkind manner. The thing that struck me, was that my daughter brought it to my attention.
“Why doesn’t Mrs. So-N-So like Mrs. So-N-So,” she asked me.
“Why don’t you think she likes her,” I asked.
“Because, she’s always talking about her,” said my daughter.
That’s when it hit me. Mrs. So-N-So was a bully! She had a way of talking about any person who walked away from a conversation that made everyone feel just a tad uncomfortable. We, the group of friends who share a friendship with the bully, just listen and put up with it. To me, it highlights how that person probably talks about me when I walk away from a conversation. Fine. I couldn’t care less. Talk away.
But what I hadn’t realized, and the part that startled me, was that my daughter, at age 12, noticed it and it bugged her. So by chatting with this woman; by being “friends” with this woman; I wondered, was I teaching my daughter that bullying was ok?
How do we, as adults, deal with bullies? Was I acting like a bully, too, then?
So I started to think about it. We are all modeling behavior as parents. Whether we are trying to or not, whatever we’re doing on a daily basis, we’re showing our kids an example. It’s a stresser, isn’t it?
I used that situation to talk to my daughter about how people are all different, and that the skills she learned to deal with her friend who was bullying her, are skills that will enhance her ability to have great friendships throughout her life.
She understood this point immediately.
“You have some really great friends, Mom,” she said.
And so this is how I could tell that my daughter was growing up. Her experience with bullying, in a way, helped her distinguish between those great friends that we all have and the other friends we socialize with. She could see the difference between my true friends vs. the variety of people that come in and out of our life, who we enjoy on an entirely different level.
But it made me think, too. Am I helping to encourage that bullying behavior by not addressing it as an adult? In a way, am I empowering bullying?
So, think about it. Do you do the same thing? Without meaning it, are you a bully?
That’s enough to send me on a 6-mile run! Off I go!
May your next run be a good one.