One of our grandsons just completed fourth grade with pride. Good teacher, interesting assignments, successful achievement levels. All went well until some boys decided to taunt him. Suddenly, all accomplishments faded and the voices that counted were those of his peers.
When I shared the story with our 22-year old grandson, I concluded by saying, “Kids can be so cruel.” To which he replied, “Adults can be cruel also.” That told me that like his younger cousin, he also experiences criticism and rude behavior from some of his peers.
As a grandparent, I yearn to protect them. A voice suggests, “Let’s keep them at home with a glass dome over them.” Obviously, a solution that over protects offers no solution at all. Without rough and tumble life encounters, no resilience develops. Pain usually contributes to learning and to growth and even getting picked on occasionally seems to be part of the life process.
What do I want these grandsons to learn? First, I want them to consider any truths related to the unkindness. “Am I doing anything to contribute to this negative reaction?” When one self-assesses with an intention to grow, the outcome differs from beating up on one’s self for the purpose of justifying repeated behavior. No self-rejection allowed! Self-honesty required!
An equally important lesson focuses on re-establishing self-value. “I am a worthwhile person with many strong attributes.” I want our grandsons to remember the truth of their inner strengths. By acknowledging strengths, they grow stronger.
A third lesson states, “What you think of me is none of my business.” It takes a strong man to detach from cruel remarks and bullying. Silently walking away presents an enormous challenge — not easy to do.
Consider why people sometimes speak or act unkindly. It may help to realize that those who hurt others expose their own inner pain. Realizing that the bully comes from his or her own inner conflicts helps with forgiveness as well as with detachment.
I continue to hope for a kinder, more accepting world for all children and young adults. In President Obama’s eulogy to Beau Biden, he noted times when life feels cruel. The good news is that your parents, grandparents, and extended family provide a foundation of love on which you can stand through all of your life experiences.