I wrote a review for a book title It’s OK to Tell earlier today on the News and Reviews Blog, and I won’t repeat what I said about the book here, but reading it I did have a thought that was completely unrelated to the book.
In it, Lauren talks about the “absence” of her mother due to health issues, and the void that left in her life. She goes on to talk about how she was a lonely child who never felt like she belonged anywhere, and how the pedophile in her life sensed that, and used that to groom her for abuse. It’s not an unfamiliar story to me, and I’m sure it’s not to many others. It’s pretty common for kids who are missing positive role models, who have an underdeveloped sense of themselves, to fall prey to abusers. I’d say it’s the same thing when you look at kids who are being destroyed by bullying as well. It’s the kids without a healthy sense of themselves; who they are, what their place in the world is, etc. who are hurt, yet we continually focus all of our prevention attempts on the outside behavior of strangers we can’t control.
Instead of raising kids with a healthy sense of themselves, who feel loved, safe, and have the tools available to them to deal with bullying, or to possibly protect themselves from abusers, we spend all of our resources trying to keep abusers away from them, or launch giant anti-bullying campaigns that will only do some marginal amount of good.
Look, I’m not saying that those attempts aren’t good things, but if we think we can completely wipe out any bad thing from invading the childhoods of millions of kids, we’re sadly mistaken. What kids need most are the tools that help them deal with being bullied, to avoid being targeted because they feel safe, confident, and loved, no matter what else may be coming at them from the outside world. They need positive role models, people who are capable of listening to them, and who they know they are safe with.
Simply put, the best thing you can do to protect your kids from abuse and bullying, is to be a good parent. Short of that, the best thing an extended family can do is fill in the gaps and provide a good, safe, loving atmosphere for the children in it, and lastly, a community can provide good role models, leaders, teachers, social workers, etc. who do the same. Give kids the tools to protect themselves, and you’ll find a lot less abuse and bullying, because there won’t be easy targets.