A slight departure from the normal today
In the news recently has been the tragic death of Amanda Todd I don’t want to go into the details of her passing here or talk about the specifics of her case though I will touch on certain aspects. Rather I want to talk about the power of words.
I am the mother of a daughter who was bullied in school, and as much as I taught her to ignore those who bullied her it was not always possible especially once the bullying became physical rather than verbal.
We writers craft our stories with the wealth of language we have at our disposal, our words have the power to make the reader laugh or cry. But sadly I often think that many children today do not get taught the power words can have for good or bad. They throw insults and curses without real cause never stopping to think about how they may be received. Likewise they are quick to find insult where none is intended and the reactions are frequently out of control leading to physical responses to the slightest imagined slur. Even as adults we can overreact to situations but usually we have the skills and confidence to address the situation and the maturity to apologise.
Words only have the power we allow them to have and is a lesson we need to teach our children. The old adage of sticks and stones still holds true to an extent. People cannot hurt you unless you allow them to, being called names is not pleasant of course but it is possible to rise above it. We need to teach them there is life beyond those small-minded people who hurl insults that no matter what they think there are others out there who will listen and not judge, and we must also remind our own children to take those playground rumours they hear for what they are and not to get drawn into false belief or spreading the rumours. We need to give those who are picked upon their own words of power, not that they become embroiled in the escalation of hate but that they can see through it and know that this will not always be. Teach them about ignorance and real fear, not that words can hurt the but those who throw the hurtful comments do so from their own inadequacies and need to feel better about themselves by putting down others, teach them to pity those who have no one who cares enough to teach them a better way to be. We need to teach all children the real meaning of friendship because a true friend will tell you when you are out-of-order and direct you along a better path not egg you on to hurt others without caring about the consequences.
Schools can only do so much it really is down to parents to instill into their children a sense of empathy and compassion the really tragic thing is those most in need of this are the ones least likely to receive it. For these there needs to be someone to step in be it a family member, a teacher or neighbour. And for the parents who fail there must also be consequences, it is our job as parents to know what our children are doing, to say I did not now is unacceptable. It is always the child who suffers for the parents failure to act or in some cases care. In the Amanda Todd case there were Facebook messages over a period of time yet it would seem none of the parents were stepping in to stop what was being posted to or from their children’s account? I had full access to my daughters Facebook until she turned sixteen, in truth I still do, but I logged on until that age and checked her account regularly. I regret criticizing people at what is the hardest time they will ever face but much of what happened in Amanda’s case could have been prevented had someone stepped in earlier. We had a case here in the UK recently where a child was abducted and is still missing but the thing now one wants to question out loud is why a five-year old girl was out playing at seven-thirty pm in the dark, the truth is sadly while parents may love their children they do not always take responsibility for them until tragedy strikes. Those who bullied Amanda may not feel remorse now at her death but as they get older the weight of that guilt will come to rest on their shoulders and if it does not what influence will they in turn be to their own children? Do their parents feel shame that their child contributed to the death of someone elses baby? We have a duty to teach each child not only right from wrong but to ensure what we teach is practised, we need to remember we are not their friends we are the parent, it is not an easy job and not one they will thankyou for, well not until they are grown.
Of all the words that have power there is one above all they must be taught and that is respect, to respect themselves, to respect others and to respect that respect is not judged by how you are treated but how you treat others. And if Amanda was still here I would have shared one other with her which would have been perspective, a young girl she made mistakes, mistakes which others should have stepped in to correct (I believe the police were aware this man had the pictures of her boobs, as a parent I would not have let it rest until this man was prosecuted) but I would have told her in the grand scheme of things this was not the worst mistake she would ever make in life, that yes the picture would always be out there but that she would not always be that picture, that she could have been so much more, I would have shown her pictures from around the world to show her she would not always be in a place where small-minded people could not see past the flesh exposed by a child craving affection in the wrong places.
I am not a perfect parent, I am human and made mistakes. I do not know the answers only that unless we change the way the younger generation view the power of words there will be more Amanda’s sat alone believing the negative without ever knowing that the world is so much bigger than those who wish them harm.