For the last 11 ½ years, I have heard the same thing over and over again every day in the Juvenile Court, “MY child would NEVER do something like that!”  “Not MY child!”  I can definitively say that in only ONE case that I am aware of the parent was correct.  The child had not done what she was being accused of.

I am not sure when the culture shift occurred, but somewhere over the last 15 or so years, the trust that parents had in teachers, administrators, other adults, and other children has been abandoned for complete and total denial that their child has committed an act that was illegal or against the rules and regulations of the school system.  When told that their child has done something wrong, parents immediately, without talking to their child about the incident or conducting any sort of quarry as to what may have happened, begin to accuse the teacher, administrators, other adults, or other children of somehow concocting this event and framing their child for something that the child “would NEVER do.”   99% of the time, the child did, in fact, commit the violation and the parent is either forced to admit that their child DID do what they were accused of or the parent becomes entrenched in the denial and, despite uncontroverted evidence to the contrary, maintains the belief of their child’s innocence to the end.

Not so surprisingly, many of these parents are the ones who themselves were in trouble in school and/or with the law when they were younger or are currently in trouble with the law. Those parents seem to be low in self-esteem and lacking in education.  Those same parents tend to be absent from the home for much of the time that the child is present in it.  Adversely some of the parents who are not lacking in education or resources still hold the belief that their child can do no wrong.  Most of those parents are also absent from the home most of the time due to work or other obligations.

These parents who believe that their children are perfect angels tend to not address the violations or wrong-doing and do not punish and/or redirect the behavior.  They fail to show the child what was wrong with the child’s behavior and they fail to educate the child as to the correct or better course of action.  Theses failures or inactions further enforce the child’s belief that he or she is invincible and wrong-doing does not have consequences for them.  Consequently we see these children over and over in the Juvenile Court and we often find out that they graduate to the adult court system, as well.

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening to Q100’s The Bert Show and they were discussing bullying.  When a 12 year old girl, they named Anna, called in to talk about her situation, her story and the anguish in her voice forced me to tears.  I see the perpetrators of the crimes on a daily basis, but I rarely get to hear the victims and listen to how their lives are affected by the actions of others.  Hearing her sob while describing the actions of children in her school and then listening to her hang up in a rush brought a flood of emotions and thoughts about an issue that I had not given a lot of thought to in the past.

I have spent the rest of the day, in between court cases and other work, thinking about the issue of bullying and what part we, as parents, play in that issue.  I have thought about what it would take to really stop bullying- as it was so eloquently pointed out by many of the children who called into the radio show, that telling teachers and administrators does not help and, in most cases, makes the bullying worse.

After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that parents and those other persons who are responsible for raising the children are both the source of the problem and the solution to it.

Have you ever made a joke about a person of another race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc?  Have you ever picked on your child- purposefully knocking him or her over, hitting them for no reason other than to be mean, calling them a derogatory name, picking on them for the clothes that they chose to wear or hairstyle that they chose or their weight?  Have you ever forwarded an email containing hate messages or jokes about a person or group of people?  Have you ever yelled out derogatory statements about another driver’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation in anger while you are driving with your child in the car?  Have you ever allowed someone else to tell a joke or make a derogatory statement about another person’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation and laughed at the joke in front of your child?

Have you ever watched your child and thought “he/she sounds exactly like (insert name here)?”  Have you ever watched your child’s body language and physical reactions to certain situations and thought “that is exactly how I (or someone else in your child’s life) would react to that situation?”

Believe it or not, your children are watching and listening to EVERYTHING you do and say.  Much like a baby bird follows its mother out of the nest, by nature, the child looks up to his or her caregiver to lead the way in life and show the child how to behave.  An innocent baby is not predisposed to being bigoted, racist, or sexist.  That is LEARNED BEHAVIOR.  That child has learned that the behavior is acceptable and appreciated in that child’s world, so they model their behavior in the same light.  Being caring, kind, helpful, supportive, and loving are also learned behaviors.  The parents and caregivers are the ones that model the behaviors for the child and the ones who are responsible for disciplining a child who is testing limits.  Without discipline, the child does not know where the limits are and what consequences to expect when the limits are crossed.

Even if you have been disciplinarily absent from your child’s life in the past, it is not too late to change your ways and teach them the right way to treat people.  Start today!  Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.”  Discipline your children!!  Let your child know what behavior is acceptable and which behaviors are NOT acceptable.  Teach your child compassion for others and tell them that bullying, verbally and/or physically will not be tolerated.  Show them that there are consequences for negative behaviors and that positive behaviors are rewarded immensely.  Talk to them about what kind of future your child wants to have and the best, most effect route for getting there.  Stress to them how negative behaviors can hinder their future plans.  Spend time modeling GOOD behaviors for your child and check yourself when you are tempted to resort to your bad habits or behaviors.  I know that it is not possible to keep your child from ever misbehaving.  However, I know that it IS possible to address your child and show them that there are consequences for that misbehavior.

I also believe that it IS possible to STOP BULLYING!  However, I do not believe that it is the school’s responsibility.  I believe the responsibility begins and ends with the parents/caregivers.  I believe that if each and every parent took responsibility for their child’s behavior and discipline/training, many of the negative behaviors would disappear.  However, if the parents continue to ignore the misbehavior and distrust the teachers, administrators, other adults, and other children who are trying to tell them about their child’s behavior, a positive change will not occur.

For the sake of the children who are tormented daily and for the betterment of all children, start today.  LISTEN to your child.  If your child is a victim, LISTEN to them and hear their words and emotions and feel the pain that they are feeling.  Teach them self-esteem and work on their knowledge and ability of how to protect themselves from the bullying behaviors.  If your child is a bully or if someone tells you that your child is a bully, believe it!  First, take time to thoroughly and critically evaluate yourself and your parenting thus far.  What could you do differently beginning today to change your behavior and be a better role model for your child?  Take action and change your behavior.  Then, talk to your child and see why they are participating in that behavior.  Teach them the correct way to act and why it is not right to mistreat others.

Bullying is a nation-wide problem and will only change if each and every family begins today to make the changes to be the best role models and citizens possible.  We must STOP modeling hate, bigotry, racism, and sexism for our children and instead model caring, kindness, helpful, supportive, and loving behaviors.  Remember:  YOU control YOU and YOU teach your children through your words and actions.

If you or someone you know needs help with a bullying situation, visit http://thebertshow.com/stopthebullying/ and get help.

If you would like suggestions in addressing your child, I am also willing to help.  Just ask!

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