Thought for the Day:
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”
Question for the Day:
Are you raising good people?
If you’re an old head like me, then you probably remember the comedic genius of funny man Robin Harris who rose to fame in the 80’s and 90’s. He was not only famous for his straight-talking, ‘crazy uncle at the BBQ’ schtick, but for being the first to coin the term “Bebe’s Kids” which has since become synonymous with unruly children.
In his routine, Harris describes the “bad” behavior of the kids being babysat by a woman he’s dating. The childrens’ mother “Bebe” has dumped her kids off on Harris and his girlfriend and he tries to cope with the disobedience and disrespect of Bebe’s kids for as long as he can. Yet, in the end, he realizes that he’d better get as far away from Bebe’s kids as possible before he catches a felony for laying hands on children.
Well, like Harris, I’ve found myself fighting to restrain myself from snatching a few BeBe’s kids up by the neck because my two youngest children ages 13 and 15 have been dealing with their fair share of bullying at school lately. Both are good-looking, intelligent, and and genuinely kind people, but by today’s standards, that apparently makes you “corny” and an easy target. The Christian in me wants to continue to encourage them to turn the other cheek and walk away from ignorance, but the the mama bear in me wants them to let these little brats know that they can catch these hands if they keep it up.
It’s crazy because I used to think that sleepless nights, diaper changes and potty training were the hardest parts of parenting. Yet, I’m finding that this stage of my kids’ development is actually much tougher. When they were younger, it was physically hard to meet their needs, but now it’s the emotional burden that’s taking the greatest toll. How do I help my daughter embrace her natural Black beauty when there are boys at school criticizing her for her darker skin tone and teasing her about features that she cannot change? How do I ensure that my son continues to respect women and remains sensitive and emotionally intelligent when other boys at school are quick to label him “soft.” And how do I continue to sell a good education and self-respect as the winning combination, when my kids’ peers are wondering what’s wrong with them for not focusing all their energy on impressing the opposite sex or racking up sexual conquests? And yes, there aren’t as many 13 and 15 year old virgins these days as there used to be. So sadly, it’s become a legitimate reason to lose cool points.
It’s all proving to be a very difficult place for me to be as a parent. I’m caught between needing to teach them how to stand up for themselves and wanting to continue to protect them. They beg me not to go to the school and make a scene and insist that they can handle it. However, I’m a mom so, making a scene is what I do! Plus, if I choose to stay away and let them handle it, they might just take it too far and swing on someone which would make them just as guilty as the person bullying them. And in Mississippi, it would not be hard for the school administration to lump my kids into the ‘Black juvenile delinquent’ category where they tend to relegate most of our children with challenges anyway. So what is a good parent to do? It’s an issue I’d rather not deal with, but these days, not addressing bullying can have dangerous and even deadly consequences.
Take 13 year old Navaeh Robinson for instance who was traumatized after bullies set her hair on fire. https://mybaltimorespirit.com/2072508/black-teen-left-with-bald-spots-and-first-degree-burns-after-bully-sets-her-hair-on-fire/amp/
Or, what about 9 year old Alabama native McKenzie Adams who hung herself after a prolonged period of racially motivated bullying. She endured constant racial slurs and taunts about being “ugly” until she finally adhered to her bullies’ suggestions to “kill herself.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/12/12/year-olds-family-says-she-hung-herself-after-racist-bullying-including-taunts-kill-yourself/
And the story of Nigel Shelby another 14 year old ALABAMA native who committed suicide behind constant teasing about his sexuality, is probably still fresh on our minds. https://www.out.com/news/2019/4/22/15-year-old-nigel-shelby-dies-suicide-after-anti-gay-bullying
Shelby’s mother says that she believes the school failed both her and her son. Apparently, school officials chose not to inform her that he was talking to them about his struggles with his sexuality and the bullying he was experiencing. They even knew of his plan to take his life and told her to look for the suicide note in his backpack.
Now, I could go in on the teachers and administrators about how they are culpable in a lot of these bullying cases. I have indeed wondered where the teachers are when my children are being insulted and harassed. But as a former teacher myself, I understand that it’s difficult to manage every aspect of a classroom especially since teachers are already overloaded and under supported themselves. Yes, the schools have to do better, but as far as I’m concerned, the bottom line will always be this: The onus of raising good children who treat other people with kindness and respect will always fall on us as parents.
If you are raising the type of child who teases, berates, humiliates, harasses and abuses other children, then it’s you who I take issue with today. No, we can’t control everything that are children do, but if you know that your child is mean and hateful and don’t do anything to put them in check, then you are the BIGGEST part of the problem and have essentially become a “Bebe” yourself. So, today I’m offering a list of behaviors that should be of concern to every parent if observed in their children.
- The Use of Self-Hating Language – I’m sure this applies to all races and cultures, but I’m talking specifically to my African American parents today. If you have the type of child who makes fun of other Black children’s skin tones, hair textures, or features then I have to wonder what you are teaching your child about themselves. If they don’t know that there is no such thing as “good hair” or “bad hair” or that the melanin in their skin is an asset not a curse, then you may have failed to teach them about the beauty of their history and where we come from as descendants of Africa. If use of terms like “too Black” are allowed in your home then you’ve clearly adopted European standards of beauty and have taught your children that their beauty is less than that of their White counterparts. No wonder they’re coming for my kids if they don’t even like themselves.
- Not Respecting Differences or Appreciating Diversity – Just as racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, and misogyny are taught in the home, tolerance can also be taught if it’s important enough to a parent. If your child is growing up in a home that uses words like “nigger,” “fag,” or “illegals,” then it’s no wonder he/she may be quick to hurl slurs or racial epithets towards anyone who is different. And no you don’t have to “agree with someone’s lifestyle” to give them respect or treat them with dignity. And don’t try to blame Jesus for treating other people badly. (see: https://getliftedgirl.org/2015/02/19/dont-blame-jesus/) Christ was the first to embrace those whom the world rejected, so miss me with the Pro-Jesus bullying defense. If evangelicals are so pro-life, then try teaching your children to respect those who are different so more innocent lives aren’t lost to suicide.
- Mocking Excellence – If your child thinks it’s corny to study, strive for high marks in school, or to treat other people with courtesy, then my guess is that their efforts to do the right thing are probably being ignored at home. Everyone knows that bullying is an attempt to put someone else down so that one can feel better about themselves. But if you focus more energy on supporting your own child and helping them to be great, there might be less resentment towards other children who are doing their best to succeed. Disengaged parents with wrong priorities may not care that their child is getting suspended or skipping class. Or, they may take pride in how cool and popular their child is now, even if it’s at the expense of other kids. But believe me when I tell you, they may be winning now, but they’ll surely be working for all the focused and nerdy kids one day and it won’t be nearly as cool then.
- Devaluing Kindness – Our country’s sense of morality has already deteriorated to the point that we’ve elected the poster child for bullying to the highest office in the nation. When it’s okay for the president to mock a disabled person or call a woman fat and ugly, what do we honestly expect from our children? But, the truth is, basic kindness and respect for other human beings is starting to be a lost art. We don’t say ‘good morning,’ we don’t compliment each other, we don’t say ‘excuse me’ and our children are following suit. Any efforts on the part of our kids to be polite and courteous, are quickly rebuffed as a sign of weakness. Just recently, my son was teased for telling a girl she had pretty toes. Okay true, that’s a little weird and it’s possible he might have a budding foot fetish, but it was an honest compliment and shouldn’t have made him the butt of the joke. But these days, kids who show kindness are categorized as weak and constantly have to defend their right to be nice. If your child has a problem with kindness, it’s a safe bet that it’s probably because they aren’t on the receiving end of much of it on the homefront.
If your child demonstrates some of the above behaviors, then my question is, what are you prepared to do about it? Will you step in to offer the necessary correction and enforce consequences when they hurt others? Will you turn a blind eye and make excuses for their behavior? Will you hold your child accountable or are you the parent who wants to curse out the teachers and principal each time your child gets in trouble for bullying? Worse yet, would you want to fight the parent of the child who’s accused your kid of being the school yard menace?
So, on behalf of of myself and all of the millions of good parents out here who are doing our best to raise decent, productive citizens, please do us all a favor and come get your kids, Bebe! Childhood bullies may be breaking children’s hearts in the hallways at school today, but if you don’t intervene, it’s YOUR heart they’ll be breaking soon enough.
“Parents, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”