Good morning to all of you. The more forceful tone of today’s post stems from several stories I have heard after my bullying post last week. If you haven’t seen the post, it can be viewed at http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/480. Many emails were sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Instead of responding to each one, I’m going to have to peel the gloves off a bit because there is a point which needs to be driven home.
When it comes to bullying, disrespect, and general rudeness of children, let me be very clear. Just because a child is getting older, that doesn’t mean he/she is growing up. Poor behaviors can be learned from a number of different means. Neighborhood kids, older siblings, television, and even parents come to mind.
Getting older simply means the child/adult is still breathing. Therefore, we are all getting older by the second. By contrast, here’s what growing up means to me. A child (or even an adult) is maturing and growing into a responsible citizen. When a person is “growing up” he/she can make a positive impact on society in whatever way they choose. For example, a 10 year old child who is going to school to learn is growing up. Contrarily, a 16 year old punk who merely takes space in a classroom and causes trouble for others is only getting older.
There are times when parents dismiss poor behavior in a number of ways. For example, some may say “My child is going through a phase.” Others will use the line “They’ll (the children) grow out of it.” Although bullying along with the other behaviors mentioned often has roots in middle school, one of the reasons it persists in high school and beyond is due to the fact it was either not addressed at all or addressed so poorly, the child didn’t get the message.
There are also many behaviors not addressed in very young children which develop over time in aforementioned middle school students. If you remember nothing else in the post- take this lesson to heart. Poor behaviors in children are a lot like weeds. If they are not removed, they will continue to grow until all the beauty around them is strangled.
The “phase argument” from parents is really misguided and over used so allow me to be clear. Puberty is a phase. By contrast, poor behaviors are signs of character flaws. These flaws typically have not been adequately addressed completely by adults in the child’s life for whatever reason. Many times, these character flaws are corrected with simple parenting or other adult intervention. (a school or church, for example) Character flaws aren’t evil. We all have spots in our character which could improve. Besides, if our children were perfect already, they wouldn’t need us. But, when we do not do our jobs as parents, these simple character flaws can grow. Just like weeds, they are more difficult to remove the longer they are allowed to stay in place.
As parents, it’s our job to teach children right from wrong. I can’t tell you how many character flaws I have corrected in children or how many flaws my mother corrected in me. I can tell you I did my best to help the kids I worked with because it was important. Your child does not need you to help them get older. They can do that on their own. Your child needs you to help them grow up. The only question in the end is….. Will you take the time to care?
I will check in with you again on Tuesday. Until then, take care of yourself and the ones you love.