Parents: Own Your Children’s Behaviour

I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens, what do I have to do so people will listen to me?

– Jamey Rodemeyer’s final post to Tumblr

September 9, 2011

Jamey Rodemeyer, aged 14, killed himself this weekend.  At 14, Jamey was just a boy.  He had endured years of bullying, at school and online.

We, as parents, are responsible for our children.  We are responsible for feeding them and sending them to school and making sure they’re healthy and clean.  We are responsible for loving them and teaching them how to love others.  We must treat them with respect and teach them to treat others with respect.  We can not control their behaviour, but we can, must, teach them what is right and what is absolutely unacceptable.  We must own this responsibility.

We can try to blame the school for not stepping in.  We can get angry with “the system” and wax furiously about the evils of the internet.  We can yell and scream and bang away on our keyboards about who should have done something to prevent this and where the fault lies and how we would have done things differently.  How we’re right and they’re wrong because everything is a contest to see who can curse louder and point fingers more ferociously.

But the truth of the matter is that it is no one’s fault as much as it is everyone’s fault.  It’s the fault of the bullies for being dicks.  They’re assholes now and they’re going to grow up to be adult assholes who raise asshole children who will, in turn, be asshole bullies.  It’s the fault of the school for being too passive with bullies.  For blaming the bullied, suggesting, even if the suggestion were simply implied, that if the bullied weren’t so ‘different’ that the bullies wouldn’t have ammo.  It’s the fault of the entire student body for not standing up and deeming that behaviour unacceptable.  For not accepting every single person for who they are.

It’s my turn to furrow my brow and point my finger.  Whose fault is bullying?  I blame the bully’s parents.  Like I said, we must own our responsibility of raising kind, considerate, compassionate children.  We must take this responsibility as seriously as we do feeding and clothing and sending them to school.  Treating other children cruelly should not, under any circumstance, be tolerated.  We can’t blame the other child.  If our child is acting like a prick, we have to own that and deal with it ourselves.  Nip that shit in the bud before someone gets more than just a little hurt.

Last year, Eirinn experienced a very, very minor instance of bullying.  I won’t get into any detail in case anything triggers an idea of who the offending child may be, but Eirinn came home one day and, through a series of questions I asked her, told us about an on-going situation.  I sat her down and explained that even if she wasn’t being hurt and actually wasn’t even aware that she was, in fact, being bullied, that she shouldn’t put up with it.  I told her to tell her teacher if it happened again.  I told her what to say to the girl if and when it happened again.  I told her that no matter what, she should tell me when something like this happens.  But finally, and emphatically, I told her that what this little girl was doing was wrong and that she was, under no circumstance whatsoever, allowed to behave like this girl was behaving.  That it was unacceptable.  That we are to treat people the way we would like to be treated.

…treat people the way we would like to be treated…

It’s a Six Degrees Of Separation type thing we have between us as parents and the way our children behave.  Some things we can be directly creditted for.  If we cuss in front of them and they, in turn, use the same foul language?  Our fault.  Blaming peers or movies or video games is ridiculous.  Own that.  If they hang out with other kids who get into trouble, or are themselves the instigator of trouble (heaven forbid!  not MY child!), it’s our fault for somewhere down the road making them think it’s ok or fun to behave that way, or perhaps we’ve done something to make them want to rebel against what we thought we were teaching them.  Or perhaps they see the way we ourselves act and mimic that.  Or they see the way we behave towards them.

If we bully our children, they will bully each other.

Yes, there is such a thing as free will and our children never grow up to be exact replicas of the people we’d hoped or dreamed they’d be.  Sometimes they’re more and better and exceed our wildest expectations.  Other times they veer off course somewhere and choose B instead of A.  This is why parenting is the most difficult job in the world.  When the going gets tough, we then must dig in and work harder or give up altogether.  We must decide to either excel or fail at parenting.

There is always someone to blame when a child dies, especially one who commits suicide, but the fact of the matter is we all need to treat each other better.  We need to cure the illness, not treat the symptoms.  We need to stop thinking it’s ok to call each other names.  The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is antiquated and a powder puff fairy tale.  Unfortunately, names can and do hurt.  They hurt to the bone and they don’t fade like scars and bruises.  If our children have grown up thinking calling their peers names in order to make them feel bad is funny or ok, we need to look at ourselves and ask what did we do.  Where did we go wrong?

Where did we go wrong?

I just want to say goodbye,

Disappear with no one knowing. I don’t wanna live this lie, smiling to the world unknowing. I don’t want you to try, you’ve done enough to keep me going…

I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine for the very last time.


11 thoughts on “Parents: Own Your Children’s Behaviour

  1. Oh man, this is so tragic, yet I’m sure bullying is the number one reason teens commit suicide (no, I don’t have stats, but it’s probably up there). Great post. When my son was bullied in grade 4 by a couple of grade 6 girls, he was so sick about it, he didn’t want to go to school. I told the teacher, “Either you deal with it, and if you don’t, trust me, I will!” Thank goodness it was easily handled, but I will never forget the look on my son’s face when he told me the reason why he wanted to skip school. That boy’s death is so sad.

  2. That’s so sad. Why does this ever have to happen? We can blame society, but most of the blame lies with the bullies and their parents. Great post. Unfortunately, I am afraid the people that need it most won’t get the message. Chances are that those schoolkid bullies are being bullied themselves at home, either by their parents or by older siblings.

    Some kids are just rotten, but nobody grows up in a vacuum. It’s extremely likely that somebody along the way taught those kids how to behave in that awful way. So I suppose you’re right after all, it really does fall back on the school and society to stand up more to this type of behavior, so even the parents will be shamed into changing their ways.

  3. My child was bullied by one individual– who bullied the whole neighborhood. It was physical, even. Finally, after no results elsewhere, I told my child that he had permission to hit back to defend himself. For several weeks he did not take us up on that offer, but finally, one day at the bus stop, he did. It took one hit to drop the bully.
    At that time, the bully’s mother then came out and strangled my child. The marks on his neck were visible for days. We had to get the police and the school involved. Several neighbors– whose children has also been bullied– came to our aid. To this date, nothing has come from the incident with regards to the police, to the school, or even with the neighbors’ assistance. The punch my child threw was the only thing that has stopped the bullying.
    This is the society we live in. As long as there are parents who deem it perfectly acceptable to scream, to hit, etc. we will have bullies (adults and children alike).

  4. I might not be a parent, but I’ve been a child and I’m an adult (technically speaking.) That said, this post is amazing and should be read to every parent of every child everywhere.

  5. Third time I’ve read this and I still don’t know how to comment.

    I believe that there are no bad children, just bad parents. Parents that fail themselves and their offspring. Bullies are definitely made, not born. I’m typing cliches now. Just know this post was effective and you should be proud.

  6. This is an excellent post.
    So often I hear parents worried about hurting their child’s feelings, breaking their spirit, giving them cause to be angry at Mom or Dad. Instead of calling bad behavior what it is: WRONG, parents want to sugar coat it as a “phase” or going through a bad time.
    If your child is acting like an idiot, call them out. Do the hard thing, be a PARENT. Not their latest excuse. Treating your peers poorly is unacceptable, no excuse is valid for bullying.
    Dear me, I hope I’m doing right by my daughters. That they may never know this kind of hatred…inside or out.

  7. Please picture me rising to my feet and giving you that slow-clap of emphatic agreement. YES. This. All of it. Bullies LEARN their behaviour, and yes, blaming it on movies/music/video games/their peers is a total and complete cop-out otherwise EVERY kid would act that way. The fundamental difference? How they’re parented. You’re bang-on with this post, Jen. I’ll be sharing it everywhere I can.

  8. Pingback: Parenting The Bullied: Like Arriving At A Gun Fight With Rice Krispie Squares « My Tornado Alley

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