Yesterday I wrote a post about a movie that I watched with the girls and lost the entire post when I went to publish it…..FRUSTRATING!!  I am unable to recreate it, but I am going to try to write and hopefully, capture some of what was on my mind.  Ryleigh, Olivia and I watched CyberBully, an ABC Family Special…you know…what used to be called ABC After School Special, back in the day.

The premise of the movie…

It highlights 3 friends (girls) and how they deal with the nasty, seemingly “normal” barrage of character insults that are exchanged on Twitter and Facebook.  There is one group of girls in the school, who basically have nothing nice to say about anyone and for fear of becoming their target no other students will stand up to these girls.  In the early stages of the movie, it becomes quite clear that one of the 3 friends, Taylor, has a crush on one of the “popular” boys.  Taylor’s bestie has recently been used and disposed of by another “popular” boy.  Hurt and humiliated, the bestie attempts to steer Taylor away from her new crush, in order to spare her heartbreak.

Soon a mystery man appears online and as fate would have it, mystery man loves and adores all of the things that Taylor loves and adores…..DESTINY!!  C’mon….it hasn’t been that long since our highschool days….you can remember what that would feel like…right??

Coincidently and synonymously, on a day that Taylor and the bestie have a minor disagreement, in which the bestie’s feelings, unintentionally, get hurt, mystery man turns on Taylor and begins a horrific, untrue, horrendous character assassination against Taylor….hmmmm..…you with me?  I thought the movie was done well, but we are talking about ABC Family here…it is not rocket science.   If I lost you….mystery man is the bestie.

Taylor’s life quickly spins out of control…online slurs become increasingly hostile and vulgar and the  group of girls that I mentioned, the ones whose past-time is insulting people, jump on the Taylor bashing train.

Sadly, neither one of my girls commented that the movie was off-base.  In fact, they could relate.  I found myself, as I have before and if you’re a parent, I am certain you, yourself have uttered similar words……“kids are so mean today?”….”I don’t understand where such hatred comes from?”    I pondered this when I went to bed…..don’t you hate how your mind won’t shut off when you are ready to catch some zzzzzzzs?

There are many points in the movie that can be discussed, but the one that struck me this evening was the contemplation of…are kids really “meaner” today?  Bullies have been around forever.  So where does the difference lie?  The answer, I believe is…INSTANT ACCESS!!  Developmentally, teenagers are not mature enough to handle their strong emotions, let’s face it, a lot of adults can barely manage their own.  Teenage years are where we gain or start to gain this maturity.  Can you imagine the damage I could inflict, if every time I was hurt, offended or angry, I typed out an insult online.  This is what kids do today.  An extremely large portion of their lives is happening online.  They have access to the internet from their phones.  Their feelings get hurt and instead of having a few hours to simmer down or think about the situation, they lash out  ONLINE!  Their reaction is quite normal…think about when you have a fight with your significant other, your child, a friend…..if your feelings get hurt it is natural to lash out, to inflict a hurt in exchange for the hurt…right?  We have all said things we wish we could take back and end up apologizing…but teens today lash out in black and white….there is no “taking it back.”  Not only that, but instant access denies any “problem” privacy.  Nothing is just between the people who it involves….everyone gets involved.   Our teens entire, or at least what they believe to be their entire world, has now become privy to what would ordinarily be  a comment said in anger and  then rectified privately.

Instant access catapults everyday , normal teenage angst….an exchange of words amongst friends…. to character annihilation.  We see more and more teen suicides, as a direct result of online pranks and online bullying.  What do we do?  It is unrealistic to think that taking away computers and instant access is our answer.  It is not going to happen,nor do I believe it is the answer.

So what is the answer?  I believe there is an added component at work, as well.  Parents often cannot separate their child’s behavior from themselves.  What I mean is parents (not all) hold the belief that when their child messes up it is a reflection on them as a parent.  Now, it is true that in some cases this can be reality, but in general one has nothing to do with the other. I consider myself to be a fairly hands on parent and, although I like to believe that my kids are kind, responsible, compassionate, nice, “good” kids that WOULD NEVER DO THAT….I know that they are, in fact, KIDS!!  Kids mess up, kids are irresponsible, kids can be mean….yes, even my precious angels…ha!   I have long ago trained myself to not affiliate my character to my kid’s mess ups.  If my child acts in a way that makes my stomach turn, embarrasses me or is hurtful to someone and I get caught up in keeping it under wraps, it disables me from parenting effectively.  As a parent, some things that I diligently try to remember are…

1. my kids are kids, they are going to mess up, sometimes REALLY BIG

2. bad behavior from my children does not equal poor parenting on my part

3. mess ups are a tool for me to teach a lesson that may have otherwise gone by the wayside

So what is poor parenting?

-Poor parenting is not separating your child’s actions from who you are as a parent (this is a tough one).

-Poor parenting is sticking your head in the sand.  

-Poor parenting is not getting BOTH sides of a story when your child feels wronged.

-Poor parenting is not putting in place consequences to irresponsible choices.

So what is responsible parenting?

-Responsible parenting is allowing our kids to be kids, to mess up and to keep our identity separate.

-Responsible parenting is being PRO ACTIVE.

-Responsible parenting is being aware of what is being said to our kids and, more importantly, knowing what our kids are saying to others.

-Responsible parenting is investigating BOTH sides of a story

-Responsible parenting is teaching our kids how to take responsibility for their choices, good and bad.

-Responsible parenting is helping our kids make amends where it is needed, we must teach them the art of apologizing.

Raising children is a tough job…truly.  If we want to raise kind-hearted, successful, responsible citizens we need help from our community.  A community of friends and family.  We have lost community…we are so afraid of someone discovering our imperfections that we isolate ourselves.  I don’t mean we stay in our houses and do not socialize, we do, but we do not commune.  We rarely share, openly, our challenges.  For me, personally, I need to vent, I need to discuss and air my struggles.  I need to talk things through.   I want to share my struggles and share my joys!  We, and I mean we as a general term for our world, isolate ourselves.   We need to live from our core instead of living from our fear.

Fear that people will discover that…

we have dustbunnies overtaking the house…(oh the horror)

our marriage has struggles…(shocking that putting 2 humans in a relationship together would elicit conflict)

our kids are driving us nuts (gasp…we don’t like our kids every second of the day)

some days we don’t want to get out of bed ( what…other people get down)

we feel alone 

we don’t ACTUALLY have it all together (imagine the strength we could give one another if we were open about this fact)

We have gotten lost somewhere along the way.  We forbid ourselves to investigate why we feel so empty.  Why… in spite of our bragging rights that our kids are performing at an academic level beyond their years, play multiple instruments, excel in too many sports to recite… we feel so unfulfilled.  We afford ourselves luxury vacations and drive high status cars and still somehow feel disconnected.  We are so afraid to let people see the real us….the us without all the bells and whistles.  It is sad…. really, we have become severed from the core of ourselves so completely that we wouldn’t recognize it if it was standing in front of our faces screaming.  The good news is we can all reconnect and discover who we are at our core, the person we are meant to be and become.  We can teach our children to tap into who they are…now, before it becomes too buried with all of the trimmings.  

Our society tells us it is weak to be vulnerable, but it is the exact opposite of reality.  It takes great strength and courage to be vulnerable.  It is not easy to be open…you will get hurt, but our hurt will not destroy us, if we allow ourselves to feel it, we can use it to build our emotional strength.   I struggle to be vulnerable, however, I will continue to tap into my vulnerability because I believe it is the way to joy, peace and contentment.  We have to teach ourselves and our kids that to judge and put down others hurts them AND it hurts  us.  We think that focusing on the deficiencies of others makes us feel better about ourselves….hey…look what they did, I am not that bad…. and perhaps, for the briefest of moments, we do feel pretty darn good about ourselves.  It may puff our egos momentarily, but shortly after we don’t feel so good.  We encounter an uncomfortable feeling that we can’t quite put our finger on.  There is great freedom in accepting ourselves…good, bad and ugly.  There is also great freedom in accepting others.  

We can’t all be friends.  

We can’t all LIKE everyone.  

We can,however, refrain from tearing others down, in an effort to lift ourselves up.  

It is not the easy road...that dang high road...but it is the road that leaves you feeling good about yourself.  It is the road that leads you to who you are…your core.  We must teach it to ourselves repeatedly…it is an endless journey, it requires us to keep reeling ourselves back in.  We must teach it to our kids.  The madness is stealing children’s lives.  We need to be teaching balance.  We need to be more diligent in teaching our kids to not lash out.  INSTANT ACCESS is not going away anytime soon, so we need to be more aware and ask more questions and insert ourselves more aggressively into the lives of our youth.

GET CONNECTED…to your kids, to your friends,to  your family, but most importantly….GET CONNECTED TO YOURSELF…YOUR CORE!

Enjoy your day!