Bullying in the Locker Room
An NFL bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins exposed a problem for parents and educators who work hard at bullying education and prevention. While bullying in schools in proclaimed as unacceptable, pop culture accepts and justifies so-called “locker room” bullying behavior. Management and players at the time of this writing have supported the alleged
bully and have implied the target is too “soft.”
What message does this send to our kids?
Professional sports teams influence kids who watch them. I’m grieved that adults in the NFL-bullying incident are justifying the locker room environment and that the alleged bully is downplaying his actions. Kids are receiving a mixed message:
In schools, bullying is wrong, but the locker room, it’s okay.
As a parent raising kids in this culture, how do you counteract mixed messages sent by the media and celebrities? Be encouraged – you do have power even in a world with blurred-lines. Here are five ways parents can help kids in a culture of mixed-messages.
- Live what you believe. You have more power than celebrities in the life of your child. They won’t tell you, but you’re their rock star. Kids, especially teens, are quick to identify hypocrisy but also grateful when they see authenticity.
- Hold your kids accountable to the standards you set. Living by example isn’t enough to instill the values you’re teaching your kids. It’s important to hold your teen accountable when they cross the line and engage in behavior you deem inappropriate. Pushing limits is part of the developmental process of adolescence, so don’t be surprised if your teen crosses a line you set. But when consequences are absent or behavior is justified, your standard becomes meaningless.
- Empower your child. Bullying is about power and control. Empower your teen to value who they are apart from what others think about them. Build their confidence by affirming their abilities, strengths and character. When we empower our kids to value who they are, we give them a powerful weapon in overcoming harassment or bullying behavior.
- Don’t sell your child’s soul for popularity. You’re raising your child for a lifetime, not just for adolescence. Accepting harassing talk among kids or because “boys will be boys” sets a standard for harmful adult behavior. When you condone inappropriate behavior because you don’t want your teen to be un-cool, you damage their character.
- Be the adult who says, “This isn’t right.” When a bully isn’t confronted, you give the bully more power by being silent, which also re-victimizes the target. Children look to adults to set the standard they intrinsically know is right or wrong. Be confident in your own identity to stand up and say, “This is wrong.”
The NFL incident gives adults and kids opportunities to talk about what’s right, what’s wrong, and how we really respond to bullying. Take the opportunity to talk with your child about the power of words, the impact on people’s lives, and what’s not okay.
How has the Incognito-Martin incident impacted discussions with your kids? What are your thoughts on the issue? We’d love to hear from you!