I'm not naïve. I know our kids gossip, swear, rant, rave and talk behind each other's back. Kids can be cruel just like adults. Sometimes, even more cruel. What shocks me more is our generation of parents and how we address this behaviour.
Our kids have only been back in school for a short while and thus far, I've heard of many children being the victims of "social bullying." Yes, we've all heard the term Cyberbullying, but that expression makes it seem so random and out in the "online world," while social gives it more of a defined meaning: A social group using their digital devices to express hatred, threats etc.
My true wake up call to this epidemic behavior was after a recent incident involving my daughter.
A group of girls had decided they wanted to place an order for sweaters and needed a minimum number to fulfill their order. My daughter opted out. Seems pretty straightforward. But as pages worth of text messages in a social iMessage group showed, my daughter had committed the sin of all sins.
Five of the girls in the group who are only 11 and 12yrs old proceeded to swear about her, threaten her, and one went so far as to post a picture of herself with her fingers in the form of a gun to really bring home her point.
Now I will say that my daughter was not in this group, so she was not supposed to see this conversation, but some of her friends were. While they didn't participate, they chose to show it to my daughter and make her aware of the situation and she in turn shared it with me
Like I said, I'm not naïve, but I was blown away by the hatred being expressed. I grabbed some screenshots of the conversation and the picture of the girl with her hand aimed like a gun and proceeded to forward it to the mother of the child with the subject line "bullying."
"I know these are our babies we are talking about...but when did the teaching stop?"
Here comes the parenting shocker. The conversation with that mother is where I believe lays the problem in parenting within our generation. After receiving my email, she asked that I call her. I was confident that she would be beside herself after seeing the language used by her daughter and the picture that was posted but apparently one shouldn't jump to conclusions.
She stated that while she was originally shocked by what her daughter had posted, once she realized that it had not been sent directly to my daughter, it could not be construed as bullying. Okay, fair enough (not really), we both interpret bullying differently.
While the mother apologized that her daughter had posted that picture, she made it clear to me that my daughter was not supposed to have seen the conversation and therefore she was okay that her daughter participated in this conversation in this manner.
She then proceeded to justify her daughter's words by pointing out that my daughter had not invited hers to her birthday party so that indicated that they weren't really friends and her daughter could say what she wanted in this private group.
So instead of seeing this as a teaching opportunity to show her daughter that once something is online, even if you think it's private, it's out there forever, she chose to defend her daughter's actions.
"Our children are not Fabergé eggs, they won't break if we take the opportunity to teach them, discipline them and yes, even disagree with them once in a while."
I know these are our babies we are talking about. Those adorable little people that we brought home from the hospital. The ones we cuddled and nurtured and taught how to walk and talk. But when did the teaching stop?
When did this particular mother decide that it was more important to be her daughter's friend than her mother and teacher? If someone would have told me that my child did this, I would have been horrified.
I would have apologized profusely, made my child apologize to the "victim," and taken away every electronic device from my child and grounded them until they were old enough to be marching down the aisle.
The aisle in their retirement home.
These days it seems it's more important for us to be considered our child's best friend. Let's discipline less, let's let them stay on their devices endlessly because it keeps them from requiring our attention and of course, let's only compliment them and never tell them when they've done something wrong for fear that their ego's may be damaged for years to come.
It's time for a wakeup call. Parents unite on this! Today it's my daughter, tomorrow it could be one of your children. Our children are not Fabergé eggs, they won't break if we take the opportunity to teach them, discipline them and yes, even disagree with them once in a while.
Top two takeaways from what we just experienced?
1) Teach our children that once they put something out in the online world, it's there to stay and it's never really "private".
2) Our children are not perfect. Not mine, not yours, not anyone's. So let's stop behaving like they are and make them accept responsibility for their actions.
How would you have reacted if you were this child's mom? Share your reaction in the comments below and let's get a real conversation on bullying started!
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