In an ideal world, there should be no such thing as bullying. A child would be so supported and positive they would never feel the kind of hopelessness that causes anyone to take their own life.
Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. If we did, the parents of Phillip Parker, a student at Gordonsville High School, TN, would have spent past weeks planning his future instead of his funeral.
On occasion, this column has inspired opposing commentary that expressed a “kids will be kids” attitude. Some have shared stories of bullying when they were kids and how it made everybody stronger.
Of course it’s true, life isn’t fair, and our children are not perfect. Bullying does exist and childhood is meant to teach life lessons. Children have certain common behaviors that aren’t always good. But that's why we have parents.
Understanding our human imperfections, doesn’t mean we should give anyone the impression those behaviors are acceptable by shrugging it off and saying “that’s what kids do.” As parents, we are here to teach children the difference between right and wrong. Negative behaviors are simply parental opportunities—a way to prepare them to step into the world with a positive attitude that makes the world a better place to be. There needs to be consequences, guidance and an understanding that it is unacceptable to alienate, target and bully anyone for any reason. On top of that hefty responsibility, we need to give our children hope, and teach them to envision a bright future.
In an ideal world, we'd check our egos at the door. If anybody’s parents got wind of inappropriate behavior or bullying—whether their child was the victim or the aggressor—they’d all band together over coffee to stop it. Adults would communicate with one another—with no fear of repercussion. There would be no judgment, only a common goal—to help all of our kids learn to socialize respectfully and understand that common courtesy to everyone, without exception, was a requirement.
So far, I’ve seen a great many fingers pointed—at teachers for “allowing” bullying in the classroom, parents for defending the indefensible and administrators for looking the other way. The truth is, it’s everybody’s fault. We're still not making enough of a difference to a generation that holds our future in its hands.
We don't live in an ideal world, but we can’t let that stop us. We need to aspire to the ideal—build on what should be if we are going to work together and create what could be.