I know bullying and cyberbullying is a topic that many people are becoming immune to. I would never want to diminish the fact that many kids struggle with the emotional scars caused by the torment of bullies -- especially cyberbullies.
However, there is a population of silent-sufferers that are not being talked about enough. It seems like every day I am told about someone's story of being verbally abused or harassed; it could be by a "friend," online or in the workplace, but the commonality is the same: it is by grownups -- people who should know better.
As both a victim and a survivor of cyberbullying, I personally understand the deep dark hole you live in when you are attacked. I wasn't attacked as a child, I was attacked when I was in my 40s. Yes, I was beaten down by grown-ups online and within weeks more joined in a cyber-slamming party against me.
These were all people over 18, people who should have known better. Yet when given a keyboard, anonymity, and the belief that the first amendment allows hurting others, it can be a free-for-all and you are up for slaughter.
Offline the experience can be silently deafening. Many have seen the reality shows Dance Moms and Cheer Perfection where the mothers verbally abuse each other. They call each other names (straight out of an elementary school handbook) or text nasty messages to each other. Are these our children's role models?
I experienced the dark side of female aggression firsthand in my life offline: Being faced with a variety of personalities in group settings, it can be common to find people that feel the need to be in charge or to be recognized. I have been the brunt of snarky emails, harsh texts, and accusations only to be followed up with patronizing behavior in lieu of an apology. These women seem to like to have control and/or want to be the focus of attention and need to have their egos stroked. What drives people like this? See me -- hear me -- love me.
Is that what bullies want?
We see this kind of adult bullying and control/power seeking in the soccer fields, dance recitals, PTA/O meetings, neighborhoods, and even your own kitchen. Have you ever participated in a gossipy conversation with a friend and your child was nearby? Gossip can lead to vicious bullying very quickly since much of it is taken out of context and can cause hurt feelings. Children pick up on this and are prone to mimic your behavior.
In your child's ears, out of their mouths -- or today, onto their social media sites! And as for that so-called friend you are chatting with, you never know if that conversation will end up being relayed to someone else over the next day or week. I think some bullies are very calculating -- especially grown-up ones.
I know the term bully is being used a lot, so I tried to determine how to describe women that want to feel empowered by belittling other people: Monster Moms? I question that only because I don't know if they are monsters to their children. I venture to say they aren't, but they must have insecurities that bring out this kind of aggression toward outsiders -- they are begging to be noticed. You know that cliché, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
I am often asked to write about this topic and asked what makes these adult bullies tick. I am not a psychologist, but I have to believe that both offline and online these people seek attention. Experts will tell you to never engage with the perpetrator (the bully) since it only fuels them and gives them the recognition they are looking for. We can gather from this advice that the best method of dealing with these people is to simply ignore them.
But what can we do to stop this behavior if we are guilty of it ourselves? Recognizing it is the first step, sort of like an alcoholic admitting they have a drinking problem. After recognizing that we may have a problem, we can come up with solutions for more positive and healthy ways to channel the feelings that lead to our negative actions.
Did you know grownup bullies can become upstanders, someone who recognizes a wrong and tries to make it right? If we are capable of taking steps to correct our own hurtful habits, it can be easy to take that one step further and apply our personal lessons to the outside world. In life, choices are made and sometimes it is hard to choose to do the right thing. Maybe you or your friends feel it is easier to go with the flow rather than do what is right. Always remember, you are important -- stand up for your principles and values, you will never regret it, even as a grownup.
Keep in mind parents, children watch and imitate your behavior -- offline and on. It is not about telling them what to do, but about showing them with your own actions. Be conscious of your words, your keystrokes, and your conversations.
• Keep gossip out of your home and cyberspace
• Feeling angry about an email or text? Wait 24 hours before responding
• Lead by example, people of all ages are watching
• Take part in #iCANHELP Delete Negativity, be a positive role model
Have you experienced a Monster Mom? Share your story and how you overcame it.