Getting Tough is Not the Answer

Okay, I don’t like using other people’s name in my blog posts, but I want to make sure that the other side of this hype is also heard.

Stephanie Metz just made international headlines, because she wrote in her blog (  that her children are not the centre of her world. She explains that her boys have to understand that their mother has a life of her own and that they can learn to wait and abide by certain rules.

She worries about her kids growing up in a society that is likely to take every act of rough-and-tumble play as bullying and has already instilled a worry about playing “boys games” in her still very young children.

I can totally see where she comes from. I have written both posts and books stressing that the current parenting trend and the ‘hysteria’ our society has with terrorism and abuse is only causing more and more problems.

In fact, a friend of mine just reported that six schools in a town were put in lock-down because a plumber was walking around with a flashlight and somebody went into a panic.

I also agree with Stephanie that kids can learn that they are not the most important thing ever and that this may help them when they grow up.

So my general sentiments are with her. When I look around, I also see a society of hyper-sensitive people who seem to fall apart the moment life gets a little tough.

But then she jumps conclusions.

First of all, she asserts that the kids have to get tough and possibly the parents. But that is missing the cause of this trend.

It is the lawyers and politicians that cause parents to be so permissive and subservient – to virtually beg their toddlers to listen to them, to refrain from setting limits and to cater to their whim. It is lawyers who are willing to allow children to sue their parents for punishing them. It is police and teachers in schools that encourage (young) children to report it if their parents “behave aggressively” towards them. – A child that is upset, because he was in trouble, will gladly report this, unaware of the consequences.

Neighbours spy on each other, teachers report parents and parents report teachers. If as child throws a tantrum in public the parents cannot do anything, because there are twenty strangers ready to use their mobile phone to call the police on them.

Parents are scared, because politicians that are incapable of understanding the psychology behind their laws, are threatening them with social services if they try to “parent” their children.

It is the politicians imposing “child abuse laws” without understanding the difference between abuse and discipline, who in an effort to collect a few more votes have caused the current generation to grow up believing they are allowed everything they wish immediately or otherwise have the right to become violent.

Now I agree that, in order to turn this general attitude around, we need to all get tougher, but we should get tougher on our politicians and our social attitude, because parents and children are already living with so much guilt.

I have before ( suggested that it may be easier for parents to accept labels that assure them that their children have a disorder – even if this isn’t true – so they don’t have to be responsible in a situation where this is made impossible for them. So many parents are today allowing their perfectly healthy children to grow up believing they have a disorder, ADD or autism, simply because it is the easy way out.

But my biggest issue about Stephanie’s blog post is her reference to bullying, which she clearly has no experience with.

She says “There was a time – not too long ago – when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money.  There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it (ask me how I know this).  Now, if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide…”

But bullying isn’t about one child calling the other a bitch. And bullying isn’t about stealing their lunch money.  Bullying is systematic torture, often of a whole group of kids against one victim. Those victims of bullying are some of the toughest people around, because they keep on going back to school, day after day, to be hurt and told that they have no right to live, no right to eat and that they are worthless  – a situation where soldiers, who are trained to deal with such situations, would have long fallen apart.

Not only that, but counsellors and teachers have been telling the victims of bullying for years that they have to get tough. – in the process blaming the victims and encouraging the bullies, as I explained in another post:

It takes years before somebody actually commits suicide. That isn’t a response to being called a bitch – it is a result of having every sense of self destroyed by the bullies and by those who tell them it’s not a big deal and they should just “get tough”.

So, I hope that some of the people who so readily supported Stephanie’s view will realize that this entire reference to bullying is not only irrelevant to the topic, but it is victim-blaming.