Although not apparent at first glance, there are common threads between the epidemic of youth and young adult violence (youth violence)in the nation’s urban areas, and widely publicized suicides among youth who are perceived or acknowledged to be LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender). Whether influenced by gangs and similar values, or disdain for individuals with non-traditional sexual orientations, the following threads are common in both youth groups, and cry out for attention:
– Lack of emotional security
– Poor social skills, and intimidating others to gain friends and respect
– Seeking power by hurting others
– Being insensitive to the hurt caused to others
– Experiencing faulty parenting
– Involvement in school-based incidents that are often inadequately handled.
Because faulty parenting is often such an important contributing factor to bullying and other youth violence, additional comments follow about it.
Faulty Parenting Contributes – In urban communities, faulty parenting is often, but not always, associated with low socioeconomic status, which undoubtedly contributes to the greater incidence of youth homicides in disadvantaged urban (“inner-city”) communities which are, unfortunately disproportionately African American and Hispanic.
At all economic levels, faulty parenting can occur among well-meaning parents, thus unconsciously turning children into bullies. It often results from not treating one’s children with respect. In fact, in some cases it results from parents even bullying their children. Examples include: (a) physical and verbal abuse, including yelling and cursing) at children to get them to comply (which not only hurts them, but also damages their self-esteem); (b) ignoring children; (c) severely punishing children for minor offenses related to discipline; and (d) too much parental permissiveness. Not insisting on discipline can lead to over-demanding children manipulating their parents, which sends a message to children that intimidation is the easiest way to get what they want.
Inner-city homicides and glbt (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) suicides both call for intensive preventive action. However, although there are many more known and reported inner city youth homicides – which disproportionately involve minority youth – than glbt youth suicides, the youth suicides tend to attract and hold more media attention. All such tragedies are great losses to their families, extended families, and to society even if inadequately appreciated by society. Unless society gives greater attention to addressing and reversing targeted underlying causes, the incidence of unnecessary and tragic youth violence is likely to escalate.
A summary of tips for parents on how to handle bullying from the book Strength for Their Journey by Robert L. Johnson,M.D., an Editor and Advisor of Health Power for Minorities (Health Power®), and Paulette Stanford M.D., follows.
Bullying Tips for Parents
- Establish a zero-tolerance policy. Let children know that bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances.
- Explain that racism is a very serious form of bullying, and that it’s a matter of racial pride to avoid hurting other human beings.
- Be consistent with your discipline. Stick to your rules so that children know what you expect. When they are unsure of the rules, they sometimes bully to feel more secure and gain control.
- Spend more time with your children. Bullying and other troublesome behavior tends to occur when parents don’t spend enough time with their children. Often, parents are so concerned with earning enough money that they basically leave their children to raise themselves. Children need to be close to their parents, both for reassurance and mutual support.
- Show children how to manage conflicts. “Children learn what they live” If they witness force being used (parental yelling, hitting or using threats) to accomplish getting what’s desired, they are more likely to use the same techniques on others for control.
- Encourage bullies to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. Bullies often have a problem understanding the pain others feel. Have them put themselves in various situations, and come up with solutions where nobody gets hurt. If a child still bullies, don’t let him or her tell you it’s no big deal. Point out that victims of bullying often suffer a lot of pain, which sometimes haunts them for years.
Remember: Knowledge + Action = Power