Saturday, October 13, 2012

Slow Roasted Teenagers ~ Yummy ~

** Okay, here's my preface: if you think you're going to feel judged or offended, stop reading now. If you're going to have an open mind, please carry on :)***

I have terrible news: Our children are being slow roasted.

There's an old adage about cooking frogs. If the frogs are dumped into boiling water, they will jump out. However, if they are put in the pot with the cool water and slowly brought up to a boil, the frog won't notice. It doesn't struggle, or jump out. It's cooked.
This is what is happening to our children. And the scary part is, we are allowing it. Defending it. Even supporting it.

We recently had a teen suicide due to "cyber-bullying". As I watched her youtube video, I couldn't help but think this young girl is was no different from so many young girls. She made the kinds of "mistakes" that are common to the teen years. Flashing, fooling around with boys; some poor choices perhaps... But nothing uncommon to growing up.... and LEARNING about life. She was also victimized and taken advantage of by boys. Again, sadly, not uncommon at all. What's new, is that thanks to the internet, thanks to social media, and thanks to cameras on every cell phone, and a cell phone with every teen, her "mistakes" were immortalized online, for all to see. For all to mock, and ostracize. Her "mistakes" were on display to follow her from school to school. And somehow, the children in every school felt entitled, maybe even justified to bully her. As a whole they felt okay about participating in tearing her down.... to the point of finally beating her with a crowd of support. Eventually, leading to her suicide. And sadly, her experience, is not uncommon at all.

It's shameful. I feel heartbroken for her family. And I feel haunted by questions... Where are the parents? Any of the parents? Are people to busy to monitor the online safety and activities of their children? Why were they not acting like people who had learned morals? Empathy? Kindness?
I'm sure a lot of things factor into this... but basically, I believe they've been cooked. And that's not justification. It doesn't make it okay. It makes me wonder, what is wrong with families? Why are we allowing this?!

Talking this story over with people, something interesting happened. Stories of bullying came forward from each person. Bullying from both teachers, and fellow students. Bullying stories that took place 40 some years ago, right up until now. Let's start with the stories of teachers bullying. (Please Understand, this is not meant as an offense to all teachers, surely there are many, many wonderful, positive teachers who keep children save and have a beneficial effect on their students.) The stories I heard were all from elementary school; they included teachers pushing children down stairs; strangling a child against a wall in front of a class; shoving a child to the ground in front of a class; not allowing a child to use the washroom, and having him wet himself in front of the class; and locking a child alone in a classroom for 2 hour detention after school closed up. These stories are multi-generational, and from varying towns and cities. The children in these stories experienced Fear, Hurt, Embarrassment, Shame, Humiliation, and HUGE Injustice and Violation of trust at the hands of people entrusted to care for them. In all of these stories, no significant consequences came to the teachers; and yet the one's telling the stories, tell them like they were yesterday; flushed faces, and shaking voices.

Do you think these kinds of experiences might have an influence on our children's development of empathy? or Kindness? I do. I think it teaches them it's okay to treat people badly. And what's more?.... the parents were told about these situations. The parents rightly complained, and nothing came of it. So what do our kids learn?? What are WE teaching them? We're the teaching them that if you are big, or in power, this kind of behavior is okay. If you're at school, this behavior is okay. If you get caught, even as an adult, you won't be held accountable in any major way. If you are a child, you are power-less. And if you are a parent, you are also power-less to help. The School has the power, the System has the power. And right from elementary school on, the lesson is bullying is okay. Of course we would never say that, however it's true.... although, terribly inconvenient.

In fact, in some schools it is true right from day 1 of Kindergarten. One mom recently told me of her schools new policy that on the first day of school, parents were not allowed to enter the school. Period. She said children were crying, parents were crying; and they were told, "No. No parents in the school. We'll take care of them. This will encourage their independence." And parents accepted that. Oh, I'm sure some protested, or maybe felt inwardly worried; but this mom reported that overall, parents just allowed the school to have that much say! Again, what is the message?! What is the lesson?!
The message is "We, the school, are big and powerful, and even your parents can't help you or even access you here." Intimidating at the very least. And what does this teach (a 5 year old) about empathy? About the importance of feelings, and caring for another's experience? Or the connection of parents to their little ones? The importance of family?.... all secondary to the prerogative of the school.

Yes, into the cooking pot they go.

For 12-13 years, we as parents support our children participating in this system. Slowly roasting. And let's face it. We're busy. We trust that the learning happening in Our school is good, at least mostly good. The problems of drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, and so on "don't happen at our school"; "it's a private school"; or "we live in a good area of town"; or "we're in such a small town".... "We're trying to earn a living; to make ends meet. We try to have regular family dinners, and enjoy some weekend events together... taxi-ing to and from friends houses, the mall, soccer practice and so on...."

And then, one day they are in high school and these kinds of things happen. It is all too common. And then people around us wonder, and maybe We wonder how these things could possibly happen.... people like myself wonder why these teens have no empathy.... why they are vicious.

They've been cooked. Slow roasted by the school system. By the climate of this world. By Video games about war, stealing cars, hookers, or .... By social media.... By popular male and female performers also teaching anything but positive morals, or good qualities; and often promoting unhealthy views on sex and attitudes that de-value women.... Wow. I'm sounding awfully judgmental; awfully down on a lot of things. What is my point anyways?!

My point is:

I hope that when my children come into contact with the boiling water, they will hop out!!

For our family, this hope is a lot of work. It's meant following a path of natural learning, at home. It's meant making financial choices that support time together over many other things. It's meant being really specific about entertainment. And mostly, it's meant keeping our purpose of a trusting, close relationship foremost; one that models empathy and kindness. A relationship that is protective of their innocence, childhood, and feelings.
It means, (forgive my rudeness) raising them. It means doing our best and hoping. Reading stories like this, reflecting, and hoping.

I hope that as these tragedies happen, some people will go further than saying "What a shame... so sad." I hope that at least some people will start thinking deeper than that. And figuring out how these events are connected to their own families, because they are.  
~We are all connected.~

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