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One Moment Please... A learned behavior... enabled

Mon, May 14th, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

There are many times in which I write commentary pieces that never get published. I write them for the most part to formulate my thoughts on particular subjects facing our communities, our region, our state and even at a national level. In recent months, I’ve written pieces on those involved in the Occupy Movement, the eminent domain issue relating to the expansion of the trail from Preston to Forestville, and even how Rushford might best approach the situation with the library, community center, municipal liquor building and the need for a new school. But, either due to a lack of space, with the contribution of other writers taking precedent over my work, or simply because I don’t know if it is my place or the right time to make my opinions known -- my thoughts stay contained. And, probably for the best. When I have reservations, there is usually a good reason. I need to sit on my thoughts for a while, and let them marinate.

This time, I have decided I need to address a subject that can’t be sidelined; something that relates to all of us in some way.

As with many of our readers, I have heard the news reports about recent teen suicides relating to bullying.

Rachel Ehmke, a 13-year-old Kasson-Mantorville Middle School student committed suicide on April 28 as a result of continuous harassment from her peers.

Then, this past Sunday, May 6, a 17-year-old young man named Jay ‘Corey’ Jones, who attended Century High School, also committed suicide as a result of bullying relating to his sexual orientation.

To turn the other cheek and pretend that bullying is not prevalent in our schools, big and small, is the biggest mistake we could ever make. The end result can come with dire consequences, as we’ve seen in recent weeks.

This subject has been a topic of conversation in homes, schools and workplaces for many of our readers.

My only hope is that we don’t stop keeping our eye on this issue and do our best to prevent further suffering for the sake of our youth.

Ultimately, the issue of bullying exists and has always existed for centuries. I remember experiencing it when I was a kid. Being the smallest kid in my class nearly every grade of my school age years made me an easy target for an ever-evolving pecking order no different than what would be best described in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

Boys could be cruel. But, as I have heard in conversations with many people, girls can be even worse.

Boys typically get physical with punches. Girls seem to take a more psychologically damaging approach with name-calling, un-friending, and alienation.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We’ve all heard that saying, I’m sure. And, that’s bogus. They both hurt.

To demean others will ultimately break their spirit. Is that what we want?

I think not.

As I have read countless articles from media throughout our region along with navigating heartfelt commentary shared on Facebook, my heart sinks.

As an adult, now more than 20 years removed from my high school teenage years, I can somewhat forget what it was like to be a teen.

As adults, we all know that teenagers are going through some of those most critical transformations, and possibly life-defining moments during those years between the ages of 13 and 18.

Yet, as adults, we forget how it felt to be a teenager. For the most part, I am guessing we have become socially adjusted, self-aware and content with our identity.

Those impressionable teenage years establish a foundation for how we view the world.

Teenage years are full of emotionally fragile moments that young people may not be mature enough to battle alone.

This is where we as adults need to take a proactive role in preventing situations from getting to the point of no return.

We are the adults, and we need to do a number of things, in my opinion.

We need to lead by example. From a young age, our children are sponges and absorb everything we say and do. How do we treat others? How do we talk about others? Our children are little tape recorders. Even when you are standing in the kitchen and they are out in the living room, don’t assume they can’t hear you.

Parents and all adults need to lead by example.

And, the root of the problem will always stem from the bully doing the bullying.

Bullying is a learned behavior. And, what’s worse is when it is enabled without accountability or expectations for change in that behavior.

Again, we are the adults, and we need to be aware of how our children relate to other children. Are they respectful? Are they caring?

Quite frankly, I don’t care if either of my children end up becoming the valedictorian of their respective graduating classes. Yes, education is important. But, what I do care about most is how they treat people.

How we learn to treat others at a young age is probably the most important thing we learn for the rest of our lives.

The entire bullying issue is on us... the adults in the room.

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