You're at the grocery store and a teenage steam punk/emo/scene/whateverthehell bumps into you and then has the nerve to say, "Watch it, old lady." Or you're at the skating rink with your kids when you see a little rink-hag totally cheating at the Red Light/Green Light game by moving forward 5 feet after every other kid has stopped. She gets away with it every time and wins, of course, because her big brother is the DJ, and no one makes a fuss because the prize is just a stupid plastic bead necklace of which you have 20 at home from that crazy trip to Marti Gras in college. Or you're at
I'll give the moms of toddlers and (because I'm feeling generous and, okay, I had a fit-throwing, head-butting preschooler myself) preschoolers a free pass. These little ones may be infuriating at times, but they don't have the impulse control or the maturity to do better. And I'm not talking about garden-variety, normal kid misbehavior either: sneaking candy, eye rolling, no-I-don't-have-any-homework, occasional smart-mouthed comebacks, I-didn't-do-it-maybe-it-was-my-sister kind of behavior. I'm talking about kids of the age of reason who know they are breaking the rules and don't give a crap because the rules don't apply to them, what they want takes precedence over the rights of everyone else, and everyone knows that grown-ups are too stupid to figure out what they did anyway.
I think allowing these behaviors, writing them off as oh, they're just being kids, is a good recipe for cooking up an entitled, narcissistic adult.
Here's some food for thought. Imagine being at work when a coworker comes up to you and says, "You're a stupid, ugly loser and no one likes you, " and then pushes you down on the floor. You'd go to your boss and complain, right? (Unless you have your crazy papers like I do, in which case all bets are off.) Imagine your boss responding, "Oh, that's just how coworkers are sometimes. You've got to let it go. Do you have any brothers? No? Ah, well then you must just be overly sensitive to rough housing." The end. Doesn't that sound crazy? Is there any justice in that?
Kids have to deal with this kind of thing all the time. We would never tolerate attacks from other adults. But kid bullies are tolerated because it's just the way kids are. Being bullied is a rite of passage. Bullied kids are just being too sensitive/wimpy/reactive. Blah blah blah.
Could it possibly be that tolerating bullying among children is one of the last vestiges of the time in history when children weren't so precious? Do children have full legal rights (including the right to live free of violence), or do they only earn those rights when they reach the age of 18? Is it okay that kids have to deal with behaviors that we, as adults, would never stand for among our peers? And if it is, why? Because the sink-or-swim approach just works so wonderfully for children? Because we had to deal with it, so by God, they do too? Because they need to be toughened up for the real world of adulthood? (You know, the one in which we don't stand for verbal or physical abuse.)
Let me know what you think.