Adults Behaving Badly

In my local paper this week, there was an interesting article about how bullying in school is starting at such a young age. It used to be middle school (7th or 8th grade) where kids started taunting one another – now it is 7 and 8 years old. I remember having a discussion with the counselor at my children’s grammar school, who said she was spending all of her time in the Kindergarten class helping them get along!

What’s up with this? Does anyone remember the wonderful line from “High School Musical” (the original one) where the lead female character says something like, “Remember when you were in kindergarten and you could just be yourself?” Well, it seems that no longer holds.

I started to think about this as I went through my day and spent some time observing behavior among adults. After all, where are the children learning this if not from us as the role models? I listened in on a couple of moms talking at the ice skating rink about someone else, and “Who does she think she is? I feel like punching her out sometimes” was one quote. In the checkout line at the supermarket I was behind a woman who was yelling at the cashier about the lousy strawberries she had bought last week – using profanity and everything, while the poor cashier just looked appalled. I saw a mom at the playground push her son because he kept letting other kids cut in front of him while he was waiting to climb onto a jungle gym. He protested, but she pushed anyway.

I realized how often during our day-to-day interactions, as our children are watching, we model impatience, intolerance and a disregard for the feelings of others. Now it is also true that our children are learning this behavior from watching television and video games. Have you seen a “respectful” character portrayed on a children’s show anytime lately? I know I haven’t seen many, and my kids will even comment sometimes on how rude the actors are to their parents or elders. That’s when you know it must be bad – when the kids even notice it!

We may not be able to control the television programming, but we can control the programming we offer each day as our children’s role models and mentors. As you go through your day with your children at your side, step into “Interested Observer” mode and watch whether you are gossiping about someone else, criticizing someone else or generally being impatient with those you encounter or being quick to label them as “difficult people.”

One time I heard my younger daughter saying something to her brother, and I asked her to speak in a nicer tone. “But mom, that’s how you talk to him when he isn’t doing what you want him to,” she replied. Wow. A lesson right out of the mouth of my babe. I realized she was right and started paying much more attention to my own tone and approach. It continues to amaze me how much more cooperation I get when I watch my own style and manner with my kids. This week, try watching and staying alert to this. Maybe we can collectively bring kindness and compassion back into the kindergarten room next year.