I recently read a book in which the author advised parents not to allow their teens to bully them. Immediately, thought after thought began to rush through my mind as if the one sentence she’d written had tipped a domino over. Are you being bullied.
Please put your defenses down and answer the question honestly. No one will know unless you want them to know. It’s actually not that bizarre when you think about it. I’ve talked to countless parents who’ve been bullied to stop controlling various aspects of their child’s life. Tweens and teens are developing independence and more often than not, they want their parents to stop restricting their phone usage, monitoring their text messages, and directing their schedules. Whatever you ultimately decide is your business and I’m not here to debate that point (right now), but I am here to ask you to have a conversation together and recognize the problem. The problem is that some parents have chosen to relinquish control over those areas because they’ve been bullied. Do they know they’ve been bullied? Maybe. Maybe not. Someone who bullies others habitually badgers or intimidates smaller or weaker people. I do not believe you are smaller or weaker if you’re a parent. However, I do believe that your child’s will to get you to stop checking their text messages may be stronger than yours to continue doing so. Your child may be bullying you by arguing, acting out, resisting compliance, and constantly debating the issue.
That still doesn’t answer the question, “Why does bullying go unchecked by teachers and mentors?” I believe we fail to address bullying (and other negative behaviors) among young people because we are more insecure and dependent upon their approval than we’re willing to admit.
It’s usually painfully obvious when a guardian makes a child come to class. They’ll sit with their arms crossed or play with their phone and look at you, daring you to call on them. There have been times when I looked over and around the students, ignoring them with the expertise of a former teenager, and there have been times when I waited expectantly for them to raise their hands and participate. Neither worked. When they left, they failed to get the skills I was trying to teach them and it sent a message to other kids that I could be bullied. Did I consider it bullying at the time? Absolutely not! I thought that I was giving them a break. In reality, I knew they were mad at their parents and I didn’t want them to be mad at me as well. I was insecure and I didn’t want to lose their approval. What actually happened was that they left, feeling that they had authority—a dangerous mentality to return to the guardians with whom they’d already been experiencing drama.
Now that I know better, I do better. I confront issues head on, call on students whether they want to be called on or not, and expect their participation. Guess what? The outcome is always better than the alternative. Students rise to high expectations because they enjoy challenges, and when you show them you care about their participation, they eventually give it. Furthermore, when you assume authority, it shows that you are knowledgeable about your subject matter and that it really is important, indirectly piquing more interest among the students.
Likewise, when you choose to confront bullies, you gain respect among the people you teach. When you consistently address the situation and hold your students or youth group to high expectations, they will rise to meet them. They’ll be more cautious out of respect to you and they will adhere to your standards because they’ll begin to see you as a teacher who really cares. Isn’t that all we need? A teacher who really cares?