The Wright Perspective℠
Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠
A Blog by Gary Wright II
Bullies, teens, and parents - Let's have a discussion
Monday, October 4th, 2010
Through suicide, our society recently suffered the unnecessary loss of several bright and beautiful kids who were being bullied. The list includes Justin Aaberg (age 15), Asher Brown (age 13), Raymond Chase (age 19), Tyler Clementi (age 18), Billy Lucas (age 18), Seth Walsh (age 13), and thousands of other teens. There is a lot of attention being paid to this issue recently, but it has actually been a growing problem for many years. I think it is past time for us to have serious discussions about stopping bullies.
TEENS: Every life is precious and don't ever let a bully or ignorant person make you think otherwise. It is not cool being a bully! If you observe someone being picked on, speak out about it (or click the REPORT button). Tell the bully, "Stop that! That isn't cool!" I know sometimes it's hard to say something, or else you might become a victim too. That is where your friends come in. Discuss with your friends the bully issue, and promise each other: 1) I will not be a bully, and 2) I will not let someone else be bullied in my presence. Most bullies are trying to get attention and earn the respect of their peers. When a bully sees that what they are doing isn't "cool" they will usually stop doing it. If they don't stop immediately, then it is time to speak to a parent, teacher, or other adult. If you don't have someone to talk to, there are lots of resources online. I've posted a list on my web site Gary-Wright.com at: Youth Resources
PARENTS: It has to start with you. Many parents dread the inevitable talk about sex with their kids, but there are a few other uncomfortable topics that must now be addressed in the home. In addition to the "having sex" talk, there is the "having safe sex" talk, the "sexting" talk, the "don't use drugs" talk, and the "don't be a bully or be bullied" talk. It might make you uneasy, but these frank conversations are a matter of life and death for your kids. All parents have some level of difficulty talking to their children, so the first step is LISTENING to your children. They have to know that you are going to actually listen to what they are saying and not laugh or criticize them. Don't punish them for being honest with you. They are still just kids, so you should expect them to sometimes use poor judgement and make bad decisions. Give them some space and guide them gently in the right direction. When you get bad news, stop, take a deep breath, and don't overreact. In order for them to talk to you, they have to trust you. When you do feel compelled to take action, take time to look at it from a kids point of view. Will your reaction embarrass them or put them in even more danger?
A good defense against being bullied is having high self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem, it doesn't take much to push you over the edge. Building self-esteem isn't easy. The teen years are especially difficult because your body is changing, your views are changing, and these young adults are still trying to "find themselves." Hell, for that matter, there are lots of adults who still haven't self-actualized. Let your children think and dress like the unique individual they are trying to become. Teach your kids what is right and what is wrong, but allow them to make a few mistakes along the way.
Parents: Are you setting a good example for your kids? The youth of today have totally different views of the world than we had when we were children. They think racism is ignorant and sexual orientation is a non-issue for them. If you say racist or homophobic things in front of them, then you are being a bad example.
After the death of Matthew Shepard, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to prevent another life being taken due to ignorance. It hurts me to know that so many kids are committing suicide because they think it is the only way out. We have to let each of them know that they are special, they are loved, and that they each have a part in making this world a better place. I hope the younger generations will take the same pledge that I did.
-- Gary Wright II