Thursday, November 30, 2017

Twisted

These thoughts have been running through my head for awhile now.  With the latest headlines about alleged harassment and abuse, I thought this was a good day to share those thoughts.  If after reading, for those who wish to express that it isn't just a boy problem, you're right.  Girls can be bullies and predators, too.  

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I've heard this before.  Sadly, I've actually said it, too.  An adult tells a little girl, "That means he likes you!" after the little girl has been made fun of, bullied, or given negative attention by a boy.  He pushed you in line.  He likes you!  He called you a bad name.  He likes you!  He took your pencil and broke it.  He likes you!  Why do adults say that?  

Why would I ever think that myself?

It has been only recently, and only after my own young daughters were on the receiving end of that sort of unacceptable behavior, did I realize what I was saying.  In telling my girls that a boy liked them when he was hurting them instead, taught them that boys are allowed to be mean.  Boys were allowed to call them names and rough them up.  The meaner the boy was, the more they were liked.  

How twisted is that! 

Not until I realized what was really happening, that my daughter was being hurt, and then later imagining the boy growing up exactly as he was now - as a very mean and sneaky bully - did I promise never to say that asinine statement ever again.

"He likes you!"  No.  A boy who breaks rules, who pushes limits and who puts a girl in a position of fear is not showing anything nice.  He's showing how manipulative and intimidating he can be.  But boys will be boys, right?

Wrong. 

Imagine that young, sneaky child growing up - as a teenager, as a young adult, as someone's husband.  Now, imagine him continuing to make fun of and bully girls and give negative attention to the women he meets in life - a high school classmate, a girlfriend, a co-worker, his wife.  If the boy is allowed to behave a certain way with no consequences, a destructive pattern can been created.  The more he is allowed to misbehave or hurt others without consequence as a child - in his neighborhood, in the classroom, on the playground, the more he will think he can misbehave or hurt later in life - in the gym, in the office, in the bedroom.  

What happens next? 

The bully becomes a predator.  The predator, if not stopped, will seek out more victims.  Victims, if told that "boys will be boys", may continue to be hurt.  It's a chronic, vicious cycle that could, and likely has, for some, lead to domestic violence.  

One young boy we used to know was never given boundaries.  We've heard that he's grown up from being the little boy bully at the park to being the teenage bully looking for trouble in the neighborhood.  He was pushy, mean, degrading, and disrespectful to other kids and to authority then.  Apparently, he still is today.  Other parents clued into this and would not let their children play with him.  The boy still found a way to be with kids his own age though, and now, their "play time" is disturbing.  Mocking children.  Throwing things at people.  Cyber bullying.  His parents knew about his behavior but shrugged it off because "boys will be boys".  

It's disturbing for me to think about what else he may try to get away with the older he gets.  

The boys who have bothered my daughters don't anymore.  We've put a stop to it.  One reason is because my girls are wiser now.  So am I.  It's been quite awhile since there has been an incident, but when my girls were confronted, they were quicker to tell me.  When they have been uncomfortable around a boy, they were quicker to tell the boy to stop whatever it was he was doing.  They were quicker to tell an adult about the incident, too.  I like that they now know how to advocate for themselves.  I like that they know which adults they can trust to help them also.  As long as the adult they seek out takes the situation seriously, they trust that the potential abusive cycle will be stopped. 

Boys and girls have played together for centuries.  Some know how to play well together while others do not.  Teaching children a few simple rules about what is appropriate play is important:  keep your hands to yourself, treat each other's belongings well, speak with kindness, and always respect each other's personal space.  Those simple rules are a great start and can positively shape future interactions with others.  

But rules have to be enforced and followed for them to do any good.  

No one, no matter their age, should ever feel pressured by another person.  Young, old, boy, girl, man, or woman.  We are all worthy of respect.  Society tells us that little boys who hurt little girls, either emotionally or physically, means that the boy likes the girl.  That needs to stop.  Intolerable, unwanted behavior from anyone is not affection.  It's a form of abuse, and it's time to remind society of that. 

xo, Cat


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