Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Toughening kids up, abuse, and bullying causes and responses

In a news article on MSNBC, there's a story about a two year old girl that was abused and beaten by a man that was trying to 'toughen her up.'  The link is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43312561/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/

My question is when is it good to 'toughen kids up?'  I remember when I was in school the exact phrase was used at least twice as an excuse for bullying.  Two different kids hit others or said mean things while explaining that their victims needed to be toughened up. 

As a general principle, if you want to run a race well, then you get better and prepare by running beforehand.  So with toughening people up, the idea is that their future lives will be hard, so we're going to hit them and call them names so that in the future they won't be as sensitive to it?  Will their future lives involve being hit and called names on a regular basis?  I don't know about anyone else, but I haven't been hit or called names on a regular basis... ever.  It happened occasionally at school, but since then... nothing. 

It seems obvious to me that these kids, and the man who beat the little girl, were subjected to similar abuses.  I think the supposed root goal of this abuse is to help people be ready for their future, and reduce characteristics like whininess and crying when bad things happen.  It might also be supposedly useful to teach people to depend on themselves as opposed to others that might fail them or not be there. 

In my opinion, having watched lots of kids, there's a little bit of human nature in children.  Whining and crying is a reaction to events around them.  It isn't the best reaction.  Probably the best reaction is communicating with others.  Learning to be mean and violent may be another type of reaction to events around people.  It's worse than whining and crying, and it's what people learn when they're 'toughened up.' 

I don't think anything positive comes from lashing out violently and name calling.  Toughening up is just another phrase that means abuse.  If someone wants to help their kids learn better ways to interact and react to others and the situations that they confront, they should be taught to communicate their needs and wants, and negotiate acceptable outcomes to difficulties.

Obviously when faced with imminent violence, sometimes defending ones self is necessary.  Here's an article on 'teaching your kid to defend themself: http://www.teachkidshow.com/teach-your-children-how-to-defend-themselves/ It stresses the need to teach children to speak up for themselves, and to tell others how they feel, even if they're angry.  It also talks about steering clear of trouble.  Telling a teacher is used only when other attempts at resolution have failed.

As far as bullying goes, another website: http://www.greatschools.org/parenting/bullying/1333-defending-himself-from-bullies.gs talks about why teaching kids to respond with violence is a problem.  Responding with calmness and confidence and communication is best in almost all cases. 

In my personal opinion, teaching kids how to fight to defend themselves against bullies tends to turn them into bullies.  We have some friends that were quite upset that another boy hit their child with a stick.  They were very angry about it, and have been teaching the child to use violence to defend himself.  They didn't know that their child had knocked the other boy off of his scooter in order to get on it himself before the boy got the stick to hit him with. 

I don't think little kids are able to differentiate well when to use violence if they are taught to use it.  It's easy to teach kids to hit, it's hard to teach them it's only ok in a single circumstance.  They often get caught up in the idea that it's only good against the "bad" kids.  But if you watch them on the playground, they're often making judgments about bad kids, and those judgments are often wrong. 

Another website: http://www.myprimetime.com/family/parenting/content/bullying/index.shtml about "Bully proofing" our kids, teaches six different strategies to stop or prevent bullying.  The expert says to look over them and talk about it with your child to choose the best one to implement.  Very good site. 

Often kids that are bullies need help.  If they and those that are raising them can get help, these behaviors can stop, and it may be as good as keeping one person from a future jail sentence, in my opinion.  There was an article about how bullies grow up and abuse intimate partners.  I found it! http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/school-bullies-linked-domestic-violence-adults/story?id=13774706
Actually this is a hack job by another website about the same study.  Oh well.  Same information. 

There was a case of bullying in Australia on you tube found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isfn4OxCPQs&feature=related  It's one of those cases where one kid is shown as a bully, and he's picking on a larger kid, and the big kid takes him down.  There was a lot of cheers and praise for the big kid.  No one can be sure, however, that the kid initiating in the video clip is entirely the bully, and the big guy was entirely the bullied.  Maybe the little guy had been bullied by the big guy, went and got some friends who he thought would even the odds, and came back for revenge, only to get body slammed. 

We can't really know.  It's likely that this was a case of a bully 'getting his', but we can't be sure.  And even if it is, our little bully that gets his probably has also been getting his at home for most of his life.  He's probably been getting 'toughened up' by someone in his family.  I think violence is cyclical in nature, and in some cases it's a response to a situation where more customary measures seem to have failed. 

At the end of the day, lets stop the violence!  And let's stop cheering violence.  Can't we all just get along?

1 comment:

JC said...

Good article Jeff. I think that violence is an unfortunate side effect of our nature. That still doesn't excuse bullying, however.