Monday, April 30, 2012

Zero Tolerance

Zane is speeding on a collision course with actual school.  He will start kindergarten next year.  I want him to make friends, and get along with his teachers and learn as much as he can.  I do not want him to be teased, or picked on, or told he is weird because he is different.  I want Zane to treat others with respect, peers and teachers alike, and I want others to treat him with the same respect. In other words, I do not want my son to be bullied or to be a bully.  At the same time, I want him to know that he doesn't have to meekly accept being treated that way; he does have options, which should only involve fisticuffs as a last resort. Any child should be allowed to defend themselves, if necessary.

Schools all over are preaching a no bullying mantra to all students.  No bullying, teachers say to students.  No bullying, kids say to other kids.  Although I think that this current attempt is laudable in many ways, I don't think that it will be very effective in the long run.  You can talk to kids until you are blue in the face about respect and bullying, but they will do what they see adults do, not what they say. 

How many people in the current workforce have been bullied by their boss?  How many have been yelled at, or made to feel less than, by someone above their pay grade? How many people have been told "You should be thankful that you have a job" when their workload triples?   How many people have been talked down to or belittled at work?  Why is it okay to allow bullying in the workplace?  Why is it okay for an administrator to call a teacher into his office and threaten them with job loss if their students don't score well on state assessments?  Why is it okay for an employee to be forced into a pay cut, and told he should just be grateful that he has a job? 

For that matter, why is it okay for Rush Limbaugh to make a living out of bullying?  Because that's what he does--he's a bully.  He doesn't actually have to come up with any original thoughts.  If Limbaugh, or others like him, don't like what another person, such as the President, has to say, they call them names and harangue them instead of arguing in the rational manner of intelligent people.  The Governor of Wisconsin essentially bullied people to get what he wanted; other governors have done the same, and nobody has called them on the carpet for it. 

The political extremism that exists in this country, at its heart, is pure bullying behavior.  This is certainly not a new phenomenon, but the message has always been the same.  If you don't believe what I believe, you are less, you are other, and I can do whatever I want to you in the name of my political party/my religion.   If my party wins, I can cut the funding for the projects you considered to be important as retaliation; if my party loses, I can spend the next four years making life miserable by fighting every single bill that might make any sort of difference.  I am convinced that all the vitriol about Obama's healthcare law has little to do with actual facts and more to do with retaliation for getting the bill passed in the first place.

Kids are exposed to this.  Kids hear their parents calling the President of the United States names that aren't very nice.  Kids hear their parents talking about what their boss called them that day.    Older kids may watch the news and other programs, and hear politicians hurling insults at each other.  What they hear and see doesn't jibe with what they've been told at school.  Since it's okay for Mom and Dad to call other people names and it's okay for politicians to scream at each other, many children will reason,  that this behavior must be okay.   How can we hold children accountable for bullying behavior when no one is holding the adults around them accountable? 

If we truly want bullying behavior to end, if we truly want a more respectful climate in the work world and in politics, then we need to hold everyone accountable for bullying and not just when they are at school.  That means no more tuning in to hear Rush call someone else a slut.   No more doing whatever you want to others just because you can.  We cannot expect our children to 'do as we say' and not do as we do.  We have to show them that we, as parents, will not accept bullying behavior from anyone. If there are friends or family members in your life who are negative and bullying, stop associating with them.  If you attend a church where the pastor spews hatred toward others, find a new church. If we stop giving money to politicians who are bullies, if we stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, if we start giving money to more positive causes, that will get the ball rolling.  We can also start treating each other with more respect.  These are little things, but each drop in the bucket brings it closer to overflowing. 


  1. I'm 41. When I went to school in the 1970s and 1980s in suburban atlanta, bullying was called "getting the business" or "taking your lumps" or "just the way thing are". I never saw or heard of a teacher pr school officials addressing it, not once. If you defended youself against a bully, you got the same punishment as they did.

    It's been 13 years since Columbine and schools are just now taking bullying seriously? really?

    I think zero tolerance policies make zero sense. They insult everyone's intelligence playing playing to the lowest common denominator. The only thing that will stop bullying is removing children from their Toby Keith listening, budweiser swilling, mean spirited parents and putting them with people like us. Of course that won't work. We have no more room in our house.

    I agree with you and like this post, Tina. But Im happy schools finally believe bullying is a problem. I welcome their help.

  2. I welcome the school's efforts, I just think we can do more. I appreciate your comment!

  3. i do enjoy rush sometimes--because he is very intelligent sometimes and entertaining--i knew he was a pig though, when he made fun of hillary clinton's ankles--too far---great blog--yayay we did it!!

  4. Well said. And every drop in that bucket counts. Every drop.

  5. I agree with Lance that zero tolerance policies make zero sense. Like the kid a few weeks ago who finally stood up to his bully of several months and got suspended. Why should he have to tolerate being beat down on a regular basis while the school does nothing except teach him to walk away? But I disagree about parents who listen to Toby Keith and drink Budweiser... ouch! He pretty much disqualified every southerner to parent a child. For the record, I don't drink. At all. Ever. But I seriously doubt every idiot, drunk parent only gets drunk on beer and listens to Toby Keith.

    And I agree with the original post that teaching our kids not to bully starts at home. I'd argue that it starts and ends at home. My school (or TV, radio, etc) never had any moral/social influence over me. My parents knew that politicians would never behave like rational human beings and that I'd likely not always have a kind boss or work with kind people, so they taught me, by action and word, to understand that their behavior didn't have to effect my behavior. That's probably the best life lesson they sent me off with... it got me through years of office-working hell!! Other people will be whatever they will be and I can't control that. And, quite honestly, not everyone's definition of a bully will look the same. I can't control that, either. But I can control my own behavior and what behavior I teach my children.

  6. You're totally correct when you say we need to take a zero tolerance approach to all bullying. I hope when Zane begins school he doesn't finds it a positive environment with no bullies. *crosses fingers*

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

  7. Even though we may not agree with our authorities, we must respect them. You are right, children mirror what they see, so we all must respect one another, regardless of class or rank. God made us all, so we all are precious in His eyes! Good thoughts! Just stopping by this last day of the Challenge to say hello...


  8. Bullying will always be a problem because, as you said, apples don't fall far from their trees. It's sad to experience what it does to a child. They have to have a tremendous amount of inner strength to move past this and develop their self esteem independent of what might be happening to them.

    I'm glad that schools have this policy but they can't be everywhere and it does continue to happen, sad to say. We teach them from home how to handle themselves. Great and important post.

  9. Here, here! I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised the other night at dinner when I asked our kids if they had ever seen bullying at school, and they answered "no", and then answered no again when I asked them "for real?" I hope more and more kids get to answer that way!

  10. I think Bill Maher is even worse than Rush! It has been my experience kids will do as we do not as we say. the world would be a little better if would all be kind. be kind. be kind.


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