My son was bullied yesterday at school. He’s in middle school which is the worst time and place in my opinion. Kids are cruel at this age. And kids are also desperately trying to fit in. This is a recipe for disaster. I have learned that it is a really good idea to watch middle school kids closely. You never know what ideas they are going to come up with. You never know what they might say. You never know what they might do. I would even go as far as to say that incidents of middle school bullying are inevitable based on how children are raised today. And while that makes me sad and frustrated, there is a much bigger problem with this scenario. This bullying came from an adult teacher.
My son was out sick for a week recently and he has been catching up on his work. I had to push him multiple times to get him to follow up with a particular teacher about his make-up work. He made it clear he felt intimated by her. And even from my standpoint, I have noticed her lack of tolerance for some of the kids and their age-appropriate behavior. But when he asked about making up the work, she made up a story about how it wasn’t because he was absent for illness. And then she told him to sit down, do his work and be a man.
When he told me this, I was dumbfounded for so many reasons. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. I was frustrated she wouldn’t want to help him with his grade, but I have also seen this apathy before. I was disturbed that she would try to hand my son a new story about his reality. I have seen that far too much in my abusive family to be okay with that. But I was most concerned about her statement, “Be a man.” This one is particularly infuriating. What does it even mean? Is he a man if he doesn’t do his make-up work? Or is he a man if he doesn’t bother or inconvenience her? What makes a 12-year-old boy into a man? Oh that’s right. He’s NOT A MAN! He is a boy and he needs support in his educational experience. He needs support in life. And he doesn’t need to be shut down by traumatized adults who get their kicks out of bullying kids.
We have to stop this pattern. We have a childism problem in this world. And we have it for a calculated reason. Kids are treated like they don’t matter because they are truth-tellers. They are the most likely to question the convenient reality we have created. We have set up an entire system to squelch their voices, their creativity and their truth. And in the case of abusers, this system is incredibly malicious. But there is a problem with stopping this cycle. Once we have been programmed with intolerance for our own inner children, we will tend to project this intolerance on to other children (especially our own). To stop it, we must bring awareness to the patterns that are not okay. We must find our own self-compassion toward our inner children. And we must shift our mindset about the priority of children in this world. If you are concerned you might be a part of the problem, here are some questions you can ask yourself.
How am I emotionally squelching my own inner children? It is incredibly common for trauma survivors to minimize their own emotional reactions to their experiences in the past and present. This has been a pattern for their entire lives. We have to recognize how we are invalidating our emotions by saying they are over-reactions or calling ourselves overly sensitive. If we are squelching our own need for expression, our unconscious instincts will make it impossible for us to hold compassionate space for the full emotional expression coming from a child.
How am I afraid of the truth? When we grow up with trauma, we try to tell the truth, but we experience gas-lighting and manipulation to tell the convenient story. The convenient story is the masked story the adults want everyone to support. And we build up defenses to continue that effort in our adult lives. When a child comes along and mirrors that forbidden story (and believe me they will), it can send our defenses into a panic. Our unconscious instincts will move into “shut this down” mode. So we have to address how we are lying to ourselves so we don’t stop the truth.
How am I prioritizing the external world over connection? When we were children, we were seeking connection with adults. But the adults had already been taught that they needed to keep their focus on the external world and finding success per it’s standards. Our needs were considered unimportant. Our needs were minimized. And now, we minimize those exact needs that were never met. We tell ourselves they aren’t real needs. They are silly. They don’t matter. And when a child comes to us for connection, our unconscious instincts will not allow it, at least not on the level it is needed.
If we want to change this world to a less traumatized, violent and abusive place to live, we have to look at how we are treating our children. And if we want to change how we are treating our children, we have to look at how we are treating ourselves, especially those deeply unconscious parts of self we pushed away. It is time to wake up and stop invalidating ourselves and the children around us. Let’s get busy doing the hard work it takes to stop this cycle for good.