Since I’ve been writing this article, many people have been sending me information on bullying. Thank you very much by the way, and “keep those cards and letters coming!”
A couple of recent items that I have received really caught my eye. They were scientific studies that showed the relationship between home life and bullies.
For example, a study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) determined that, “violent family encounters were most common among youth who were identified as someone who has both bullied and been victimized.”
The CDC also found bullies and their victims reported being physically hurt by a family member or witnessing violence at home significantly more often than people who said they had not been bullied. Thus, the CDC established links between bullying, being a bully victim and a child’s home life. There are other reports that have found the same connections, but you get the point.
I find these studies rather vindicating. I’ve been advocating this point of view all along. While bullying typically manifests itself in school (for children anyway), it’s origins are almost always deeply rooted in the child’s home life.
I take a bit of flak now and then because I put so much responsibility for a child’s behavior on the parents. But now, not only my personal experience, but scientific evidence points to the fact in at least 80 percent of the cases: if children are acting inappropriately at school, it’s because their parents, or someone in the child’s immediate home life, is acting inappropriately at home.
I say 80 percent because nothing in our world is 100 percent. For example, an exception to this would be if the child has been diagnosed with specific medical issues.
This is why I’m such an advocate of our school systems requiring parents to be called in and become involved when a child is found to be either a bully, or someone who is often victimized. While we might be able to reduce bullying at school with heavy handed “zero tolerance” policies and other ineffective strategies, the only way to truly help out children – both bullies and victims alike – is to get the parents involved.
There’s really only three places in a child’s life where the changes can be made to put a stop to bullying of and kind. One is in the home, the second is at school and the third is outside of school activities. And of the three, home life definitely has the greatest influence on how a child will turn out.
Our culture has adopted a point of view of, “the way I raise my kid is none of your business.” Well, I’m sorry, but it is my business; it’s everyone's business. Because when you treat your child inappropriately at home, you are sending that behavior right back out into society to continue the cycle for the rest of us to deal with.
I’m one of those people who believe in standing up when I see injustices being done, especially when I see someone being mistreated that can’t defend themselves.
That’s actually part of what it means to be a martial artist. So when I’m in a grocery store and I see a parent bullying their child, treating them like I wouldn’t treat my dog, yanking on a child’s arm yelling at them, "get over here!”, or blasting them with adult sized anger, I’m inclined to say something.
It’s usually just a simple, “right now, you’re not just teaching your child how to treat other people, but how to treat you when they get into their teen years.” And then I’m on my way. I know I can’t change a person’s behavior on the spot, so I opt for trying to make them think outside their box for a moment and hope that it will do some good in the long run.
And let me give you my measure of a healthy parent. I define "healthy" as a parent that’s more interested in the well-being of their child than in their own ego and need to be “right” or “in control.” If I get the typical, “why don’t you mind your own business,” or, “I’ll raise my child the way I see fit,” I know I’m dealing with a parent that’s more concerned with their own ego than their child’s well-being.
If the response I get is, “thank you for your concern, but I’ve got this,” or something similar, then I know the parent’s focus is right where every parent’s focus should be – squarely on the best interests of their child.