This week saw a national headline about a 9-year-old boy in Colorado who allegedly committed suicide after being bullied by his classmates. Just in time for back-to-school season.
Despite the devastating and, what I’m guessing is a very tangled tragedy itself, (which is too horrible to even think about for a second, much less read about all over Facebook) the bigger tragedy here seems to be that so many of us parents continue to comment about how sad it is when things like this happen, but really don’t see how all of this increased and ongoing meanness and disrespect between kids and teens is actually our fault.
Yes, I said it: our fault. Time to take responsibility, moms and dads. Stop blaming iPhones, stop blaming social media, stop blaming the other kids that aren’t ours. This is on all of us, together.
Let’s start with facts: Based on recent data from the National Survey of Children’s Health for ages 6 to 17, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012 — that’s just before iPhones and social media started monopolizing many kids’ lives. While there are undoubtedly endless complicating factors contributing to “why are kids seem so much meaner” these days, I’m going to guess it also has something to do with what’s happening at home.
I’m no psychiatrist or therapist, but as a regular mom I do know that when my kids feel anxious, overwhelmed or just plain confused about something, they act out. Do they act out with me? Yes. Do they act out on their friends? I hope not ... but maybe they do. It’s my job to find out and act accordingly. They’re kids — they’re learning to how regulate emotions and what the concept of showing someone respect actually means. It’s our job to stay on them and show them the way. Pay attention, parents.
If my kids act mean, whether it be to each other or anyone else, then it’s my fault. (Period.) Does little sister smack big sister because she doesn’t want her playing with the big-kid toys? Call her out and punish her for hitting. Does big brother say demeaning things to little brother when he’s in a bad mood? Discipline him with consequences. Ask other parents how your kids act when you’re not around — I sure do. Explain you want honest answers and that you give them full permission to tell your kid to knock off whatever bad behavior they might be experimenting with on their watch. Yes, call out my kid. It’s OK. It takes a village, remember?
And, on that note: Don’t be afraid to call out someone else’s kid out if you see them acting mean -- I do and I have, often. (I’ve tackled this so many times on television it’s almost getting ridiculous.)
The other day I was on a school campus and walked past a group of young boys (who I don’t know at all) harassing another boy in their group with some of the most vile language I’ve ever heard — and I’ve heard it all. I walked up to them, said “Are you guys saying what I think you’re saying?” They stopped, shocked, and just stared at me. “Do you think it’s respectful to talk like that to each other? How do you think your parents and grandparents would feel if they knew you were acting like this?” They apologized, frozen, and I walked away as they stood in silence looking at each other.
Say something, do something. We’re all parents, raising kids ... and how kids learn to treat others is on all of us.
Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and is creator of TheFabMom.com. She is author of ‘The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby’ for first-time pregnancy. Connect with Jill on Facebook and Instagram @jillsimonian.