Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Down with adult bullies!

The woman sat in her usual chair in the corner of the room. Many months before she had come to live with her daughter and her family. It wasn't her choice to move in with her family. No, it was her circumstances that brought her to this place. Her daughter sat in the kitchen with her friends. "She is driving me crazy!" she told her friends. With that opening statement, she went on to tell of all the things that her mother did in the past and present that irritated the daughter. Both mother and daughter had conflicts in the past. Mom knew that she had made mistakes in raising this child and was hoping for change. It takes two to change. Bit by bit, the mother was losing her self-esteem and was heading into a depression. Perhaps her daughter thought it was payback.

The wife snapped at her husband one more time. He didn't need to call her every time he was in the car. Couldn't he just make decisions on his own without informing her each time? On a regular basis, she lambasted him about all the things that he did wrong. "She is so mean to him," her son-in-law confided. I personally would have liked to know where my husband was most of the time.

Bullies. Adult bullies. They are everywhere. They breed the bullies growing up in their homes. They hurt others with their actions and their words. No one punishes them. They are grown ups without an authority to send them to their rooms.

Every day I see bullies. They are on the roads, they are in homes and they are on the streets. The mother yells at her child often yanking on the small one's arm at the same time. The customer sits at a table berating a server. Customers come into a store irate over a discount that they didn't receive. Supervisors yell at the children on the playground and in the classroom. Bullies are everywhere. And, we wonder why kids bully. Respect for one another regardless of age or status seems to be in massive disrepair.

From my own experience, I can say that I have seem bullying in my home, at my work and in school. There seems to be no end to the people who constantly put you down and make you feel poorly about yourself. At least as adults, hopefully, we can look at the source and understand that their ramblings are their problems and not our own. I had a boss who loved to put people down. He talked about his employees to other employees. I learned early on that not all people are nice. As an adult, I learned that most bullying came from low self-esteem on the bully's part. Still that does not make it right.

I have no answers in how to eliminate adult bullies. My goal is to take them down with kindness. Doesn't always work, but I feel better about myself. Often it does work and the person finds a new way of looking at things. But what about the children who see this kind of behavior every day? They grow up mimicking the only life they know. How does that cycle change?

So many people feel intimidated by kids. Their comfort level is just not there. Well, stop it. We are the answer. The example we set on the street, in the home, in the school, in every facet of our lives is the answer. When working with kids, I found that they loved to have adult attention. Those who didn't have it at home just wanted someone to listen to them, to see them. A compliment, a word of kindness can make a dent in the protective armor these kids wear to prevent hurt from coming in. I find that when I happen to be in a place where teens are next to me, I try to connect by giving a compliment or even a smile and telling them to have a good day as I leave. We have the power to make a difference. We seem to think that only teachers can make that difference, but we have great opportunity to make change in our world and in that of others. With our neighbors, family, friends we have a chance to connect and show them that positive words make a difference.

I say, "Down with adult bullies!" Up with changing the world with kindness one person at a time. Each time it makes a difference. Sometimes it is passed on.