It's a two way street

My last post, Omission vs Commission, talks about choices we make specifically relating to treatment of illness.

I need to add something to that thought which is a point separate in itself – hence the new post.

I just finished readling an article on the CNN website about a young girl who was driven to suicide by incessant bullying. I was horrified at the article.

I was more horrified at the attitude of the bullies’ – sorry “alleged” bullies – parents.

I accept I am not a parent yet, but I do have friends who have children in their early teens. They are decent, responsible kids because the values they were taught are decent and responsible values. They don’t have access to cyberspace other than on a computer in the family area, where comments are monitored. Conditions for the priviledge of using the computer are that any social network sites the child is on must include among their friends both parents. And this is in a family where they have no doubt their child will behave in a responsible and caring manner.

Parents are responsible for their children’s behaviour up to a certain age. That age is the point when the child leaves home. It’s that simple.

If the behaviour of a child causes another human being to be so beaten down that they end their life as a result, then both the bullying child and the irresponsible parents who allowed it to happen on their watch must be held accountable for that death.

Before the D-Day invasion, the Commander of the Allied Invasion Force drafted a letter to the President of the United States to be delivered in the event the invasion was unsuccessful, accepting the blame was his, and his alone. Acknowledging the men under his command had done allt they had been asked to do, and holding himself personally liable for every drop of blood lost in the failed attack. As we know, that letter was never sent because the invasion was a success – but the “father” of the troops recognised it was his responsibility to look out for half a million “children” in his care.

Too bad the parents today don’t share that sentiment over a single child.

I’m often not a fan of the NIV translation, but on this verse it’s got the others beaten. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I love that. “Start children off” The concept of instilling the behaviour from an early age, reinforcing that behaviour to the point that the child cannot do anything but behanve that way when it’s older.

I’ve been accused of chauvinism because I hold a door for a lady, offer my seat on public transport and walk on the traffic side of the footpath. I don’t know any other way to be. My dad didn’t sit me down and tell me, he lived the principle in front of me. Respect women, honour them. Respect other children – but don’t be afraid to fight if you have to.

Bullies are cowards at heart. I can say this from the possibly not unique, but experienced position of having been both a victim and a perpertrator.

After my brother’s death, the other kids at school couldn’t handle what I was going through and did what a young teenager does with what they fear or can’t comprehend. They used it as a way to attack me. I withdrew into myself, but there were a few people who managed to get alongside me and prevent me from going too far – actually talking me out of killing myself more than once.

In an effort to make the pain more bearable for myself, I found a kid who was about Robin’s age and who irritated me, and I became a bully – not for long – but nonetheless. That’s nearly 30 years ago. Last year I had the chance to talk to him via the internet. I apologised for my behaviour and any pain I’d caused him. I didn’t expect to become best friends, but the intensity of the venom thrown back at me caught me a little off-guard. I extended another olive branch, but it has yet to be replied to. Ultimately, it’s his choice to forgive or not. Something I’ve learned from surviving the experience I had is that you forgive for yourself, not the other person.

But parents beware: bullying behaviour by your kids says more about their home environment than just about the child. Excuses like “I took the computer out of the room around the time it was posted” only make you look foolish and incompetent in parenting. Why did the child have that kind of unrestricted access in the first place?

I was blessed to have grown up before the internet took hold. The telephone was screwed to the wall, and the computer plugged into the TV. It was impossible to “cyber-bully” anyone. But I know if I’d been caught bullying – and this is why I stopped – I’d have had hell to pay for it.

First world society has shirked the responsibility of the parent onto the state. Teachers must now instill moral values to children. The fact that by the time a child reaches a classroom for the first time it’s oral values are already entrenched seems to matter for nothing. It’s the school that is failing.


Our children are our responsibility. I wouldn’t give my dogs over to someone else to train, and I can’t believe I would do differently with a child. I don’t want to be told my child has taken it’s first step, or said it’s first word. I want to be there and guide it. Maybe that’s because I’m 41 and still don’t have kids, but maybe that’s because it’s how I saw it done by my parents – and I honour them by wanting to do the same.

The two-way street. Respect and honour. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Sometimes you’ll get your hand bitten, true. But someone has to make a stand. If not us, then who?

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