By Erin Hicks Moon
You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the epidemic of bullying in this country. Specifically, gay-bullying. The country is trying to decide whether or not a man and another man is an acceptable example of marriage. The government has repealed the ban on gays in the military. And a couple of months ago, four students took their own lives in the wake of being bullied because they were gay.
Forget your personal feelings on the issue of homosexuality. If you’re a person with a rational mind and a heart of compassion, you understand that the fact that kids killed themselves because they felt alone, abandoned, and bullied is, emphatically, wrong. And if you’re a parent, you can feel the loss, deep and dull in the pit of your stomach.
If we aren’t talking to our children about this issue, we’re missing a huge opportunity to teach compassion and true kindness. Bullying is something that all kids deal with on a regular basis: they are either the victim, they are a spectator, or, as much as we hate to admit it, they are the perpetrator. Our children are not always the hero of this story.
But we can change that.
But as parents, what can be done to stop gay-bullying? We are the primary influence over our children, whether we believe it or not. What we say, what we do, how we act, both in public and in private, is crucial to passing on a legacy of love to all people, no matter who they are. How can we empower our children to change their classmates (and in some cases, their own attitude about others? Being the Anti-Bully takes guts. It takes courage.
It starts with us. Here are a few ways you can start the bullying conversation with your kids, and show them that respect is always better.
Open Your Door – Although it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get your kids to talk to you, once they start, it’s hard to get them to stop. Make a pact with your kids about confidential or hard-to-talk-about issues. If you’ve got an “I Promise I Will Not Freak Out” policy with your kids, they’ll be more and more inclined to talk to YOU about things, instead of friends that may not have the best advice. Let them know that you are there for them, ready to hash out the hard stuff. And don’t be afraid of what your kids say. They are watching your reaction like a hawk, waiting for any excuse to take this problem elsewhere.
Empower Your Kids – So many kids today suffer from helicopter parenting. They have no idea how to do things themselves, because adults do everything for them. Let them know that THEY are capable of making a change in their classmates. Encourage them. Kids that do things for themselves and are independent have the self-confidence to stand up to injustices, even when it’s scary or unpopular. It’s embedded in their souls and a part of their character for the rest of their lives.
Take a Look at Yourself – Think about the jokes you made and the ways you try to make kids laugh. Does it demean someone else? If it does, you’re adding to the problem by making a joke out of someone’s skin color, for being gay, or any other number of things. Sure, pretending like you’ve got a limp hand and an effeminate voice is an easy laugh for your kids, but at what cost? You’re an example, and when your kid is in the locker room with his buddies, making fun of a peer, the thought will cross his mind, “Well, my dad did it, so it can’t be that bad.” It seems like something small, but it can add up to something big. Be mindful of making your kids laugh without teaching or demonstrating disrespect towards others.
Parents have the ability to eradicate the gay-bullying epidemic. It takes patience, it takes discipline, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable. But every child deserves to be respected, no matter who they are.
Don’t you think it’s time we show them how to do it?
Erin is a displaced Texan, happy to be living in the greatest city in the South. She’s the mom of 18-month-old Alice Holland, and the wife of Ben.