Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is Being Cruel the New Cool?

Bullying, intolerance, humiliation via the web -- many experts are calling it an epidemic of cruelty among our youth. This reality is echoed in schoolyards, classrooms, and campuses across the US.

Cruel language and violent behavior saturate video games, TV shows, and music kids adore. Victims are often seen as people who deserve the treatment they're getting. This concurs with anti-bullying research that cites “teaching him a lesson” as a reason kids give for bullying someone they find different or uncool.

It falls on all of us to take action in our homes, schools, and communities.  We each need to be part of the solution. Inaction allows the problem to continue. Kids need to know that cruelty in any form is never cool, and certainly not funny. Here are six things we can all do right now:

1.  Model respect under all circumstances.  Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.” Our children learn through imitation.  Whatever words come out of our mouths are likely to come out of theirs. It’s more important than ever to counter cruelty with compassion and tolerance and to be examples of this in our lives.

2. Call kids on words and actions that are hurtful.  Whether directed at a sibling, friends, or anyone else, don't let it go by.  Say something like, “That was disrespectful,” or “Please don't speak in such a mean way.”  Name it, call them on it, and be clear that it's never okay to be mean. Period.

3. Don't tolerate disrespect or hurtful comments directed at you.  Because kids are surrounded with cruel, sarcastic language, many are losing the ability to distinguish what's appropriate from what's not. It's okay for kids to express anger or disagreement, but it needs to be done respectfully regardless of how upset they might be.  Discuss all of this at a neutral time and brainstorm acceptable ways of expressing negative feelings.  Be sure to model this yourself.

4.  Monitor what's happening on cell phones and computers.  Many kids bully using texts, tweets, and social networking sites. Be clear that visiting a site that was set up to put down someone else is never okay, and initiating an act of cyber-cruelty is even worse. If your child is bullied via the internet, save what was sent and speak to your child's teacher, guidance counselor, or principal.  Even though the messages might have generated from a home computer, the impact continues at school.

5.  Find examples of kindness and talk together about them. What books, videos, movies, TV shows have heroes who are decent, respectful, kind, and assertive? You may need to do a little detective work, but decent role models are out there. We all need to talk more to kids about kindness, conscience and compassion,

6.  Let your child know that it’s cooler to be kind, and often shows more courage. Anyone can be cruel, but it takes a courageous person to speak out against cruelty. Martin Luther King had a gift for standing tall in the face of cruelty, never stooping to the level of those who hurled threats, insults, and worse. This is the highest form of courage and character. We each have this capacity within ourselves.

Delivering the message at The College of New Jersey.

What Do You Think? To leave a comment, click on the word “comments.”  Write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”

No comments:

Post a Comment