Sunday, February 28, 2016

To the Parents of the School Bully – You Have Created This Monster.

Every school has at least one bully. The child that, no matter how vigilant the school is, finds a way to make other children miserable. Sometimes this child appears to have lovely, engaged parents and no one can make out how this bully was created. More often, however, it is wildly apparent to all of us that the parents are the direct cause of the child that feels free to be cruel to the other children.

Maybe it is a na├»ve thought, but I believe that the vast majority of parents have their children’s best interests at heart. That fact somehow makes it even harder to watch from afar as parents make choices that not only negatively impact the other children at the school, but also will one day impact their own child.

There is a boy at my children’s school that I have watched from afar as his parents slowly and surely created within him a selfish and cruel child. I have watched as they asked for special treatment of their son time and time again, thinking their beloved son to be better than the rest of the population. I have listened to their public rants each year about why his teacher isn’t good enough for their son. I have watched, horrified, as they witness his poor behavior and do nothing to stop it and sometimes even encourage it.  I have watched as they, the parents who should be setting an example instead broke school rules themselves over and over again.

They have fostered a son who believes that the world should and will bend for him. With their own actions, they have not only raised a son that often makes the school day hard for those around him but they have also raised someone that will likely struggle to achieve much in this world for the world will surely not bend to accommodate their child’s every whim as they are teaching him that it will.

I simply cannot believe that these parents wish for a bad life for their son or those around him. I try to find compassion for them, even as their misguided actions have led to tears for my own child. I wish for them to see what those around them can see so clearly. 

What I wish that you could know for yourself:

Your child does not deserve better that anyone else.  Of course your son is special. All children are special, especially to their parents. Expecting your child to always be treated better than those around him is creating a child that believes that the world should and will place him on a pedestal. As much as you would like for the entire world to see your son the way that a mother does, it will never happen. Do you truly believe that any boss will allow him special treatment, even as he breaks the rules over and over again and publically shames his coworkers? Will police officers and judges give him his own set of laws to follow because he is “special”? I shudder to imagine the adult life that is ahead of him if he continues on this path.

Kindness must be cultivated.  I believe that kindness is innate in most children. However, as they grow up, it is important to teach them to be kind even when those around them make mistakes. I’ve seen the way that you treat school staff- with disdain and expectations of them witnessing your superiority. Your son treats his peers in this same way. If you treat others with kindness, they will follow your lead. Cruelty can be fostered in the same way and it is toxic to everyone.

Bullies never win in the long run. It may give your son, and maybe you as well, some feeling of superiority to act in the unkind way that you do. It must be serving you in some way for you to continue in this way.  However, in the long term, this behavior leads to a very lonely life. It is impossible to foster relationships when one is frequently cruel and submissive. I cannot imagine that you wish for your son a life of loneliness.

Humility is always better received than egotism.  Your child is a human being and, therefore, cannot be the best at every, single thing that he does. He will have strengths and weaknesses and there is nothing at all wrong with admitting that you aren’t great at something. It’s also important to be humble and admit when you are wrong. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s necessary for both parents and children to be open about their own mistakes and apologize when necessary. No one wants to befriend someone who only flaunts his or her own ego around.

If you do not have consequences for your child’s poor actions, they cannot learn from their own mistakes. People always say that the best way to learn is by making mistakes, something that most of us have learned firsthand. However, you cannot learn if there are not consequences. If you continue to make excuses for your son’s behavior and continue to expect the school to treat him differently than others, he never has an opportunity to learn and grow from his mistakes and-possibly even worse- believes himself to be above the rules.

The school is your ally, not your enemy.  I know that school decisions aren’t always correct, for teachers and staff are human, too. However, the school system is full of teachers and staff that work incredibly hard for little pay- they are doing this grueling job because they truly care about children and want them to succeed. Fostering in your child a belief that the school system should be bucked and fought at all costs is creating a strain on the staff, students and even your child. If you have a concern, treat the school as team members and treat everyone involved with respect. Always listen as much as you speak. You will likely find that they are eager to help you make the best life for your child.

I’m not holding my breath and assuming that you may read this piece and miraculously change the way you parent your child but I cannot help but hope that you will, for your son's sake as much as for the other children at the school. It is very hard as a parent to place limits on your child and to discipline them when necessary. I understand that pain. However, I believe your child will someday thank you for giving him the tools to be a kind human being and, hopefully, someday be a productive and compassionate adult.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Inside the fish bowl: Life in Iowa during Caucus season

I’m proud to live in a state that has such an important role in the presidential election. It is a rather wonderful experience to go to the caucus every four years and help to choose a presidential candidate and I look forward to that each time caucus season comes around again.
It is also quite overwhelming to live in Iowa during this time, especially for a sensitive soul and a mother with children. For months and months leading up to the caucus, our phones ring off the hook with political surveys and recorded diatribes, the television and radio ads are full of snarky, smarmy commentary about just how horrendous the “other” candidates are and our mailboxes are full of graphic mail full of unkind pictures of candidates with cruel commentary of all the mistakes that they have made in their lives.
There was a time when caucus season was not so overwhelming. We’ve always been deluged with advertisements, mail and phone calls- however, there was a time when the candidates used their voices to tell us about their own platform. That time has long past. We now spend precious minutes of our day listening to vitriolic attacks of one candidate on the others. It is emotional exhausting and depressing.
It is especially trying to experience these days as a mother. My younger children become filled with anxiety, wondering aloud if our country will ever be okay if any of these men or women become president because if one were to listen to everything that we hear, they each are the spawn of Satan himself. We are one of the archaic households that still has a home phone line and it has now been unplugged from the wall. We watch only programs off of the DVR so that we can fast-forward through the hateful commercials. We listen to MP3s instead of the radio. It has become imperative to shield our children from the hate even as we raise them to know the importance of the Democratic system and doing their civic duty and voting in every election.
I do not do my vetting of candidates from advertisements or even from the debates, which seem to no longer be a venue for the candidate to share his or her ideas for this great country but instead have snowballed into a place to throw barbs at one another much like inviting a group of playground bullies upon a stage.
I will educate myself about each candidate and make a decision, proud to use my voice in the caucus. I am grateful for that opportunity and am grateful for opportunity for the world to see how wonderful my humble, Midwestern state is.

However, at this point in the circus  that is Iowa during the caucus season- I will mostly be grateful for the process to be over. On Tuesday morning I will plug my phone back in, turn on my radio and watch television without worry of spewed hate swirling its way into the sanctity of my home. I will wish for a day in which our election season is returned to a day in which I hear about the candidates themselves without sickening malevolence towards each other. But, for now will be simply grateful to reclaim my loving home without the daily intrusion of venomous politicians and their campaigns.