Setting a good example

There’s been a lot of talk about teenage bullying lately.  In the news, we hear tragic stories of young lives taken from us in a final, desperate act, unable to find the help they need to escape this seemingly unrelenting terror that is perpetrated by otherwise normal kids.  Our kids.

None of this is really new.  Bullying has, to one extent or another, been a cruel passage into adulthood for generations.  With the onset of social media, however, there are brand new ways to taunt and torture others in ways that we never conceived of as kids.  Regardless of how it’s perpetrated, it is terrible, senseless and far too often deadly.

Of course, there is some good news. We are also seeing a lot of initiatives, led by schools and governments to do their best to curb bullying, and to identify and understand why this is going on and how it can be stopped.  There are some positive signs that our children are creating a new movement of a more caring attitude towards each other.  Thank God for that!

I don’t know why some kids just seem to be a target, even when they move out of the area, leaving a sorted past behind.  For me, it was easy.  I was a small, skinny, freckle-faced ‘ginger’ who played the cello…I might as well have painted a huge bulls-eye on my back, right next to the ‘kick me’ sign.  On the upside, I learned to outrun almost anyone, while carrying that huge instrument on my back – good for aerobics, bad for self-esteem.

I believe that parents play a critical role in supporting their kids if they suspect they are being bullied, or perhaps more so if they suspect that their child might be the source of the bullying.

What doesn’t help the problem I think, is that we as adults can often be the worst example of how to conduct oneself around others.  Take a few examples:

If you live in the Toronto area, you know about its mayor, Rob Ford.  Mr. Ford is self-described as ‘330 pounds of fun’.  Some would call him a crusader for the over-taxed citizens of the city, while others would refer to him as a living cartoon-character who has no business being in the business of politics.

I’m not going to take political sides here – I think the Ford administration has created a lot of their own misery.  I also think that his detractors will stop at nothing to destroy his political career.  This is about people dealing with people.

Recently, Mr. Ford has had a number of serious conflicts which, either self-inflicted or thrust upon him by his opponents, have put him under the microscope, politically and legally.

He celebrated a birthday last week.  A few citizens even showed up with a cake, and held a small news conference.  Instead of singing the normal version of ‘Happy Birthday’, however, they added a few more words, asking the mayor to resign and leave office.  How sweet.  What if that were school children, doing the same thing to the class president?  They’d be suspended and put into counseling.

The most recent crisis in Mr. Ford’s life is an alleged video that some drug dealers had of him smoking crack cocaine, and had been selling to the highest bidder.

At last check, the auction had the selling price at $200,000, and that amount had been raised.  The video and its owners, not surprisingly, cannot be located.

At about the same time, a tragic and confusing murder case was unfolding in the media.  A man, selling his pick-up truck online, mysteriously disappeared.   Several days later, an arrest was made, and shortly after, his burned remains were discovered.  This victim was a young father, Tim Bosma, apparently targeted at random, who has left a wife and a young daughter behind.  The motive for the murder is still a mystery, but one thing is certain.  This young family is broken forever.

Some local family and friends of the Bosma’s have set up a trust fund to help support his wife and daughter who are also now without their breadwinner, and faced with huge bills.

Here’s the rub;  It took less than a week to get total strangers to raise over $200,000 to watch a video that may not even exist, to finally push Mr. Ford out of public office. At the same time, we were able to raise less than a tenth of that amount to help a grieving young wife and mother to support her family.

How sad is that.  We’re suckers for a sensational story.

Another example is the now famous Ikea Monkey, ‘Darwin’.  Darwin is a spider monkey, owned by a real estate lawyer, who has, in my opinion, an unhealthy relationship with the little primate.  ‘Darwin’ made the news this past winter, when he was found wandering outside of an Ikea store, dressed in a fancy fur coat.  He had been left in a car while its owner went shopping.  The smart little pet managed to open a window and go for a stroll around the store.

The monkey was taken away from its owner, but now she’s fighting to get him back.

On the day of ‘Darwin’s’ court hearing, another case was being heard in the same courthouse.  This one was a murder trial involving another young person, a lady, allegedly killed by a young man – they were in a relationship.  It was a terrible, gruesome crime.  The courthouse was standing room only – there was no where to park.  Even driving past the courthouse was difficult.

Why was the courthouse so full?  Not because of the murder trial, but because of ‘Darwin’.  In fact, of all the press that were in attendance, only one reporter was covering the murder trial.

Now, we can blame the media – they’re always good to kick around, but the basic truth of economics states that they’re covering it because we want to know about it and will pay to get it.

Just this past weekend a story broke about a kids soccer tournament right here in Ontario, which was cancelled after parents from both teams ended up in a brawl after a controversial call on the field.  14 people were arrested.  It was even topped off with some racial slurs.

Are these the life lessons we’re teaching our kids? Is it our hope that they conduct themselves with respect and kindness while we demonstrate the exact opposite?

It would seem that the concept of leading by example is not aligned with our expectations.  Luckily, our kids are smarter than that.  I think they understand that we aren’t perfect, and we sometimes do the same dumb things that we preach to them as unacceptable.

I wonder how would things look if we treated each situation like our kids were standing right beside us?  I think they’re worth the effort….maybe we can even learn from them.

What do you think?

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