Parenting is a Job: Teaching Empathy

12.7.10

Shira Abel (of Abel Communications) isn’t a mom blogger, but she’s a mom, and she’s got quite a way with words.

I’ve never had a guest blogger here before, but Shira is understandably outraged after reading an article about cyberbullying. I think you’ll enjoy what she has to say. I’ll be the first to add a me too. If you enjoy this, follow Shira on Twitter.

I’m angry. I’m angry at the parents of bullies who shirk the responsibility of parenting. I don’t like lazy parents in general – but this group gets a special award. On December 4, 2010 the NYTimes published an article about cyber bullying, As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up and not surprisingly – how it’s often worse than the offline version. People often go further than they would, had the victim been directly in front of them.

Kids bully. I get that. I don’t like it though, and I certainly don’t think it needs to be an absolute in childhood. Assuming parents actually do their job. However it seems like much of the time, the parents of bullies don’t. Take one of the examples in the article, “…the mother of the third girl, the instigator, called. “ ‘It isn’t her fault,’ she said to my wife,” Major Woodson said. “The mom said: ‘I think this is way overblown. My daughter is being punished and she’s not the only one who did it.’ The mother did not apologize.”

Pardon me ma’am, but do you realize what type of example you are setting? Whether other children behaved poorly as well is really irrelevant. By making excuses this child will learn that bullying behavior is ok (her mother doesn’t seem sorry – why should she be?) And as a result we’ll have another stupid, selfish badly behaving adult in this world. And that, that makes me angry.

People – parenting is a job. If by chance your kid doesn’t have the wherewithal to make certain decisions on their own you need to teach them. And occasionally your kid will screw up. And when they screw up you have a responsibility. A responsibility to be the cop, judge and jury and yes – a responsibility to punish your child when they have done something wrong. You are not your child’s peer, nor should you be their friend during childhood. You are the caretaker, the protector and even their mentor. Friendship comes when the kid grows up (or so I’m told – my boys are 5 and 7).

I don’t believe in spanking, but I sure as heck believe in taking away privileges, grounding, extra chores and even a good old fashion public humiliation where the bully has to apologize in front of his or her peers. I’m tired of parents sloughing off responsibility because they don’t feel like putting in the work that’s necessary to raise a nice child. Kids need to know the difference between right and wrong. They need to know compassion.

Empathy isn’t very fashionable these days. I think it’s time we bring it back.