Every parent has fears. I worrying constantly about something terrible happening. I'm afraid I'll lost them, or that they will get hurt, or that they will be sad. I don't want my children to hurt, physically or emotionally, but that is sometimes out of my control. Kids fall, kids don't make the team, kids get their feelings hurt. I know this, and I know I came through it and survived, but it really doesn't make it any easier. But now as a parent, I have many more fears than I ever knew possible. If my child falls, I can pick him back up. If he hurts himself I can give him a bandage and a kiss, if his feelings get hurt, I can love him and make him feel better. These are all things I know how to do.
What if he does the hurting? I was never taught to be mean or to bully. I never saw my parents doing such things. But I wasn't always nice as a kid. I'm sure I said my fair share of mean things to other kids. And I learned that from my peers. Every one wants to fit in and have friends. If the "cool" kids are making fun of someone there will inevitably be at least 1 or 2 kids who follows suit, just so they can be cool too. What if my child becomes one of those? How do you know before hand, before that bullying becomes something worse? It's impossible to know everything that a child does, especially at school. I can control internet and phone use (years from now when they are old enough to use them) and I can monitor what they are doing when they do get to use those things. But how can you know everything your child does at school? It isn't like they are going to come home and tell me about how they made someone cry, no child would admit that to a parent. How can I be sure that the morals we teach and behaviors we demand at home will carry over?
5 high school students in Massachusetts were sentenced for bullying a girl so much that she committed suicide. This story is heartbreaking on so many different levels. And while I think that the students got off really easy with probation and community service, what do you expect from them? Maybe no one taught them how to be bullies but did anyone ever teach them to not be bullies? Did they have parents who thought they were involved in their kids lives? Was this a shock to every one who knew them? I'm sure these were "good" kids. They got good grades, they ate all their vegetables, they cleaned their room. Were their any warning signs that what they were saying online and at school was something that would cause a 15 year-old girl to take her own life? How do you know that your kid isn't someone completely different when they leave your house, as most kids are?
I think these 5 kids acted horribly. What they did certainly calls for some sort of discipline. But it isn't completely their fault. How did the mother of girl who killed herself not know that a) her daughter was so depressed she took her own life and b) that she was having sex, and with someone who was 4 years older than her. Why didn't she ever ask her daughter what was going on with her? And of course, you have to blame the parents of the kids who did the bullying. There MUST be a way of knowing what your high schooler is saying and doing. I admit I don't know what that is yet, but my oldest is only 5. I intend on answering that question before this becomes an issue. Parents MUST teach their children about the consequences of hurting someone physically or emotionally. They MUST be involved in their children's lives and not allow this behavior to even start, let alone get to this level. I think the school needs to accept some of the responsibility as well. I can only do so much from home. If a child is misbehaving or ditching class or bullying other kids at school, at the very least the school needs to notify the parents. I understand that with the way the world is today, parents will flip out if the school disciplines their kids so it is easier to ignore the problem than deal with crazy parents. But why can't you let them know what their child is doing? That will give the parents the opportunity to actually do something about it. Just because the school doesn't acknowledge the problem doesn't mean it is free from liability. How is the bullying problem ever going to be solved if people continue to ignore it and dismiss it and blame it on everybody else? Everyone in this situation needs to step-up and take some responsibility for their actions, or lack there of.
My greatest fear as a parent right now is that I will make a mistake that will allow my child to do something seemingly insignificant that will affect him for the rest of his life. My children are smart, and they are good children. How many of the teenagers in MA started that way? When did their parents stop paying attention? How do I draw the line between being involved and being a helicopter parent? Is there a way to keep my sweet little babies just as they are now?