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responsibility values


llfinan May 18, 2008

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few weeks, you are certainly all too aware of the horrific images of violent school-based incidents constantly playing in every possible media outlet. Teens luring a cheerleader classmate to a home and beating her repeatedly while the video camera rolls; a teacher being assaulted in her classroom by students; a high-schooler throwing a metal chair at another in class knocking the victim unconscious; a 13-year middle schooler who admits that he planned to shoot up his school because he was being bullied.

But what is even more worrisome than these events is that they are occurring in children that are increasingly younger in age! Just a few weeks ago, third graders were caught planning to blow up their school, and children as young as kindergarten are harassed, abused, and tormented. This epidemic also doesn’t discriminate: girls are just as likely to be involved as boys, and it crosses all socio-economic and cultural boundaries. When our children today, on average, stand a one-in-four chance to being victims of school-based violence before they reach high-school, we parents need to do something to help our children survive the war zones our classrooms and schoolyards have become.

First, ask why?

Before we can find effective solutions to the problem, we have to ask ourselves why it exists in the first place. While many people jump to place blame on divided households, families with multiple workers outside the home, cultural differences, de-emphasis on religion, socio-economic inequity and more, none of these "causes" really address the underlying problem. For whatever reason, our kids are not coming to school – or to life – equipped with the social skills and character development that enables them to successfully navigate life’s challenges. Many children today exist in a purely self-centered universe where they believe they are somehow entitled to "their fair share" and more, and that if it’s ok with them, it should be fine for the rest of the world.

Babies are born being completely ego-centric little beings, and they must be so at first in order to survive. But, as they grow, children need to learn that although they are the apples of their parents’ eyes, the sun doesn’t quite rise and set by them; there are other people in the world who are just as deserving of attention, care, and consideration as they are. The popular practice over the last decade or so that has parents abandoning boundaries and rules in order to foster their child’s self-esteem has actually back-fired. Over time, children need to learn that it is important, sometimes critical, to put the needs and desires of others first before their own whims and wants.

"Treat others the way you want them to treat you," also sometimes referred to as The Golden Rule, is the cornerstone of every good social skill, courteous behavior, and positive character element. While many people think these things are just "good manners," in reality good social skills are much more.

More than Just Manners

While having decent manners are important, you have to understand that "manners" really refers primarily to outward behaviors. But, to truly be successful in our personal interactions with others, we have to be sure that our intentions for those behaviors are in line with our actions. If we only "act" a specific way when it benefits us, – for example, by complimenting a boss we really can’t stand – we can be someone with perfectly proper behavior, yet still be a proper jerk. When we are truly motivated to be courteous and gracious to someone because we respect them and care about them as people, our entire demeanor conveys that we are a person of decent moral character as well as showing good conduct.

For our kids, these skills are not just a "nice to have," an add-on we "train" them in as we have time. Repeated studies show that good social skills are the primary factor in a child’s future success, and are possibly even more important than popular factors such as education, socio-economic background, or the "who you know" network combined. Think about it: it doesn’t matter how smart you are or where you come from, if you can’t get along with others, how successful do you think you’ll really be?

And their Lives May Depend on It!

Truly, the ability to successfully share space and interact with others is becoming a lost art. When popular media and mass marketing continually touts that "it’s all about you," how do we operate as a community and not as disjointed islands of humanity? While we preach "political correctness," the reality is that we tend to focus over-much on differences and not similarities. The buzzword of the day is "tolerance," and not "acceptance." Is it a wonder that we stand so often as "us against them?"

It is critical that we help our children learn to be a little more understanding, a little more patient, and a lot more compassionate with the people around them. Maybe if we teach them that sometimes the best course of action during a disagreement is to simply admit there is no common ground and to walk away, we wouldn’t need so many counselors, mediators…and downstream, legal defense! If we became better at moderating our words and actions, we could avoid a conflict before it even got to that point. Maybe our children would realize that it’s NOT OK to lure someone into a house and beat them up on camera to "get even" for a snarky remark posted on the Internet? Even better, maybe they’d even appreciate that the snarky remark is often best kept to oneself.

It’s not a lost cause – YET. If enough people return to a way of thinking that emphasizes positive behavior and positive thinking, we can make a difference in our families, our schools, our communities. We have an opportunity to make this a kinder, gentler world for our kids and their kids to grow up in. Maybe one in which 25% aren’t headed to be a statistic. I think we owe them that. Teach them the three R’s (Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic) and then add those extras Rs --Respect, Responsibility, Reliability, -- then we really have done everything we can to give them wings and set them free to be successful people ushering in the next generation.


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ProfMom June 4, 2008

Schools, in general, deal with bullying by blaming the victim. Bullying programs are set up to award bullies for one act of good behavior -- the good kids are expected to be good and are never recognized and not protected by the school. Much of the bullying happens on buses where there is no adult to witness. Picking on someone, pushing, pinching, poking, insulting, asccidentally knocking down, lying about them, insulting their integrity takes a toll. Bullying continues until the victim blows his top--he usually then gets suspended and the bully smirks. In my school district 150 parents pick up and drop off their children at the 3-5 grade school because of bullying issues on the bus. Parents are afraid to say a word because the school will mention their child's name to the bully and things will get worse for theiur child.


CorinneGregory June 7, 2008

This is why it's so important to get everyone on the same page from day one of school -- so that everyone knows the rules and expectations and then are held accountable to those.

Schools in which our programs have been implemented report that the bullying ceases, not because there are more enforcers, but because the "kids won't stand for it." The culture is one in which the kids don't tolerate any harassment/bullying, and so it is wiped out.


KCJohnson June 19, 2008

Great article. As a grandmother of 3 under the age of 6, it worries me that they have to venture into such a brutal world. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, please take this advice to heart. We do need a kinder, gentler world for them and for us.


CorinneGregory June 19, 2008

Thank you! I'm the author, and my colleague, Lisa was the one who posted it here.


Suomi0304 July 9, 2008

This is an extremely, extremely good blog! Please write a book!

I work with street children, war refugees, and foster children but I have discovered that upper middle class children with 2 parents can be just as challenging, if not more. Our children are silently crying for the need of authority figures and discipline.


CorinneGregory July 10, 2008

suomi0304 --

Thank you for your comment. As a matter of fact, I AM writing a book -- we're shopping for a publisher at this time; several have indicated interest so we expect it won't take too long.

And, to your comment about the "average" kids from "average" families being just as challenging -- you're very correct about that. THere isn't a single segment of our society that can't benefit from improved social skills and our communities are suffering in so many ways because kids (and adults!) aren't learning these valuable skills, and the character foundations they are based on. Hopefully we can make a difference, one child, one school, one community at a time.


Suomi0304 July 12, 2008

I absolutely agree


bcflanders July 29, 2008

The respect and manners you brought up is very big with me. You hit on so much that I "preach" to my child almost on a daily basis. I printed this and will have her read it, to enlighten her to the fact that her mom doesn't just feel that way.
Awesome - Kudo's for you!!


woeisI December 2, 2009

I agree with much of what you stated. I also believe that schools must play their part. When violence occurs in school, those involved must pay the consequences. Today's children seem to always be angry. A well-disciplined environment goes a long way to avoiding violence. Parents have to play their part as well. If your child is involved, you must not excuse it, but ensure that your child knows the consequences of his/her actions.


CorinneGregory December 2, 2009

Absolutely. And today's breaking story of Hope Witsell and how she killed herself because of bullying is another data point for why EVERYONE has to be involved to stem the tide of youth-violence. We can't afford to lose more lives. When are we going to say "enough!!!"? At what point do we get angry enough and demand a change?

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