Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stand up, Be a Grown-Up

Bullying, acts of aggression, in schools is nothing new. My dad was picked on when he was a kid, I was the brunt of many cruel jokes during my junior high years and now I see the same thoughtlessness and spite spilling out all over the hallways and playgrounds at the schools I visit. Nothing new, right? Right, except there is something new going on in schools and communities and its not good.

When I was a kid, and being picked on, I could count on the adults in my school and neighborhood to step in and break up a bullying situation. They would exercise the natural authority that adults have, send the aggressors off with a promise to contact their parents and make sure the victim of the exchange was all right. Adults were the calming force, the voice of reason, they could be relied on to be fair, in control and present. That's not always the case now.

I'm not sure when this shift started to happen but sometime between when I was a kid and when I started having kids things changed. Kids can no longer count on being safe just because an adult is around. They can't depend on the cool head, unbiased assessment and absolute authority that adults used to bring into a childhood squabble. Adults don't seem to know where they stand or how much they can say to kids these days and the result is that too many kids fall victim to acts of repeated aggression, within sight of adults, and the adults just turn their heads and keep walking.

Some adults don't want to interfere because they are intimidated by the repercussions of reprimanding some else's kid and they don't feel like the kids would listen even if they did try to intervene. Sometimes they are cautious because one or more of the kids are the children of someone popular, prominent or influential in the school or community. Other times adults don't get involved because they are busy, in the middle of something or on their way somewhere, they assume the next adult to come along will jump in. By their passivity they are condoning the continuing acts of violence, aggression and mean chatter that fill our schools and communities. They are contributing to our culture of cruelty by not standing up and speaking up and protecting all kids.

Schools are trying to teach kids to stand up for one another but I think its time we require adults to be grown ups. Its time that we, the parents, neighbors and citizens in our communities, get involved with the kids in our world. Its time to stop standing there, lamenting about society going to hell in a hand basket, its time we remember that we are the adults and a gentle but firm word can save a life, change a life and help to build character. It's time that we stand up and BE the grown ups.

This is an anti-bullying video. When you watch it imagine all of the passive observers as adults, and not children, imagine a playground, school, hockey arena, soccer field filled with passive adults watching children rip apart each others self esteem and dignity. Sound ridiculous? Yeah, it kind of does, but all too often its the reality our kids live with everyday.

Are you standing up, speaking out? Are you being a grown-up? Am I?

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

~Albert Einstein

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