"One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered"- Michael J. Fox
Words hit like bricks
Ages ago a common phrase was thrown around, "stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". Solid advice for what was a solid time. I was told this many times when complaining to an adult about another kids offensive verbage.
As a kid, I often found words hurtful. Certain children, appearing to have been raised in a corn field, made it their part-time profession to use words like razor blades. Kids tend to find that physical aspect to tear apart. Whether it was your height, your selection of cool Wolf apparel, or your lack of personal hygiene. Kids find that weakness then exploited it.
These words hit like bricks, and one day you will need to address how your child should respond to such butchery.
The Rise of the Cyber Bully
However, words have changed or should I say channels of communication have expanded. No longer do kids have to be in your general vicinity to lay undue harshness. They can be miles away behind a computer or smart phone. "Cyber bullying" has made it quite difficult to confront said bully.
With cyber bullying the opportunity to confront your attacker has been removed. "Say it to my face" has gone by the wayside as kids log on to attack their victims.
With all this what do we teach or kids? How do we prepare them for the cruel words? Well, it all-stars with:
You can't control what other people think of you; however, you can sure as hell control how you respond to it. We can't coddle our kids and hope they have an easy life, we have to give them the power to be resilient in a hard one. We cannot prevent every issue our kids may face which is why resilience is crucial.
Our kids need to understand they are far much more than the words used to cut them down. At times they need to embrace the very things that kids find and pick apart.
I remember kids often made fun of my big ears, I was graced with a tiny head which made my ears appear even larger. I embraced that characteristic and I quickly became the class clown, often flapping my big ears with my hands to get kids laughing. I owned it and took power away from those words. I made it my own and kids lost the steam to make fun of it since it didn't appear to bother me. Bullies only pray on those they get a rise out of. Once they figure they can't cut you down, they move on.
However, sometimes no matter how we react to the harshness the bully continues in. With this scenario, we have to teach our kids to step it up.
What I am about to lay onto you may ruffle the feathers of many. But, sometimes the best way to counter bullying is to confront your adversaries. When all has failed and our kids backs are against the wall, they have to know when to fight. Key board warriors, bullies, and serial predators are keen on one thing and that is easy victims. They pray on those that cannot defend themselves or are too afraid to.
Our kids need to get comfortable in confrontation. Now, it may not always be a physical confrontation, but they need to face their own monsters with courage. Their are times where simple posturing will get the job done. Remember, most of these bullies are just fluff . In this they need our support and a strong moral compass. They cannot run around punching kids in the face under the banner of fighting bullies. Like Peter Parker's uncle said "with great power, comes great responsibility". The power to physically attack another is something that needs to be controlled, yet is vital to acquire in order to face the world properly.
The Social Experiment that is the playground
I am a huge believer that the playground is where our kids learn the in and outs of society. When it comes down to it we are primal in nature. No amount of coddling or new wave parenting can calm the primal instincts programmed into our kids. It's there and cannot be ignored. They need to know how to deal with it.
Although sticks and stones may break bones, words can be devastating to our little ones. Teach them to face the words with resilience and courage, to never back down from a fight that is fair and righteous, to always follow what they believe is right and act accordingly.
Efren is the father of two boys. He is a police officer and certified personal trainer.