Crucial conversations about ethics with your son will not only reinforce where your family stands on matters of social justice, but also reinforces the quality of behavior he should not tolerate from his peers.
During my sons’ middle school years, they were afforded the opportunity to not only learn about the history of the world which they inhabited; they actually traveled it, thanks to their enrollment in Global Leadership Academy Charter School. A few years ago on a trip down South with my sons’ sixth-grade class we explored a portion of the Civil Rights’ Trail in Georgia and Tennessee. As we stood at the grave sites of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta, we spoke to the students about the sacrifices that have been made by many on all of our behalves; affording us the opportunity to say, do and create things that we could not even imagine centuries ago.
One child responded, “But that was Martin Luther King Jr. We are only sixth-grade kids!”
Therein lies the problem, folks.
Thoughts like these create the space for our young men to distant themselves from responsibility and accountability when it comes to matters of social justice and ethical behavior in their lives. As middle school students, the daily interactions in the realm of ethical behavior may involve bullying. Positively addressing peer cruelty is definitely a form of engaging in social justice. As parents, we must instill into our sons that although they are only children, within their sphere of influence they can strike a mighty blow against cruelty. I addressed this with my 6th-grade captive audience. I reminded them that every day, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they played a role in behaviors that possibly impact others negatively. Whether they were the antagonist, the ones that perpetrated the behavior against victims, or bystanders, those that saw wrongdoing and remained silent in the face of it, those behaviors caused hurt feelings, anger, and oftentimes the lowered self-esteem of the victim. As parents, what can we do to help our children remember this?
Remind them that “tattling” “ratting” or “snitching” is ALWAYS the right thing to do when their peers are being hurt, whether physically or emotionally. We do not always have to “stand up” to the schoolyard bully and risk physical harm, but we can pull an adult to the side and make them aware of the situation
Be sure to give them “scenario situations.” Ask them “how would you handle this…?” Respectfully listen to their answers, and then if necessary suggest alternative ways to deal with the scenario that may net more positive results. Don’t start a lecture series…conversational mode works best!
Teach them the art of indirect comforting. After witnessing a bullying situation, taking the victim’s mind off of the event by discussing something totally unrelated often helps to bolster spirits and often reinforces to all those watching where your child stands regarding bullying without your child having to make a declaration.
Taking the time to have these crucial conversations about ethical fitness with your son will not only reinforce where your family stands on matters of social justice, but also reinforces the quality of behavior he should not tolerate from his peers.
Photo: Archives Foundation/Flickr