Monday, February 27, 2017

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be A-Holes

Apologies in advance to Waylon and Willie

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be a-holes
Don't let 'em talk smack and act like they're cool
It makes 'em look insecure - so much like a tool
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be a-holes
'Cause people won't forget that and they'll grow up to be
A-holes to someone they love

Uh oh! The mama bear has been poked again. 

You know that saying, "Boys will be Boys"? Yeah. Well, Boys will be A-holes too. And girls. But I'm here to address the boys. But girl moms can come along for the ride too.

I'd like to break it down for all of you who turn a deaf ear when someone says your child can be an a-hole. I know that may be hard to hear, but we all need to. I live in a house with 3 mostly sweet boys and a husband, who all have the potential to act like an a-hole. Your child is no different. If they are capable of treating you or their siblings like a jerk, then why wouldn't they treat "friends" that way? 

I am sure you are not new to the concept of people fighting their own insecurities - their lack of athletic talent, their chubby mid-section, their need to feel accepted/perfect, their less-than desirable home life, their overall awkwardness, etc. - by targeting and belittling others. I know! I know. It is very hard to believe that your child acts differently when you are not around. I get it. But they absolutely do, because you'd probably tear them to shreds if you heard and saw the way they treat others so they can feel super cool and impress their peers. 

I also know you're going to want to justify your son's behavior by saying the other child probably provoked it,  because our first reaction is to protect our children and see them as a victim. But would you believe that the other child may just be smaller, quieter, may not conform to the popular dress code, or maybe he's just a nice kid and other kids view him as uncool or even better...a target? It happens. 

I am certainly not an expert in this field, or any field for that matter. But I grew up in a house full of boys and am now raising a house full. I definitely know what it looks like for boys to be boys...

  • Friendly fighting - boxing, body slamming, cage fighting on trampolines, whacking each other with sticks and swords, scrappy driveway basketball games, etc.
  • Friendly rivalry on the court, course, or field - when both parties are equally enjoying it and both walk away feeling good about themselves
  • Real live peeing contests 
  • Ganging up on younger sisters - maybe even tying her up and leaving her until someone noticed she was missing
  • Blaming other siblings for their own wrong doing
  • Back talking parents to prove a point
But for boys to be a-holes is completely different. Boys are not a-holes by nature. They are capable of being nice and kind to others. They become a-holes to cover up hurt and self-doubt. It usually shows up in the form of...
  • Becoming physically aggressive - pushing, hitting, kicking, or threatening to fight the target
  • Spreading rumors and making false hurtful comments about the target - such as:
    • "He sucks at {insert sport}."
    • "He must be gay because he can't get a girl."
    • "He is only on the team because the coach felt sorry for him." 
    • "He wears cheap off-brand clothes."
  • Ganging up and making them feel helpless/backed into a corner
  • Framing and blaming - destroying property or breaking rules and blaming the target
  • Talking crap - Constant degrading, heckling, and belittling where no one of authority can hear. Not to be confused with friendly rivalry.  Usually about:
    • clothes
    • sports ability
    • girls
    • academic performance
    • physical appearance
  • One-upping and incessant bragging - which sadly, they usually learn from their parents
All of the above is nothing but insecurity and self-doubt. We have encountered all this as parents of three boys. On the rare occasion that we are on the offending side, my boys know there are absolutely going to be consequences for their actions. Those consequences involve humbling themselves and being held accountable. Unfortunately, we have been on the receiving end of a lot of this in recent years. And while I would love to address each negative behavior above with my personal examples and explanations, I'll spare you this time. But I will say, when brought to the parents' attention, the child had minimal consequences, no humbling and accountability was involved, and we were made to look like the bad guys. When did we decide it was OK for our a-hole children not to own their words and actions?

I have consulted professionals of all kinds to get their opinion of how to best handle these situations. I have only walked away more confused - let the school handle it, go straight to the parent, take the highroad, etc. There is no perfect solution! So I wanted to share this with you, in hopes that you will start a dialogue with your potential a-hole son. Several years ago, I saved this to a Pinterest board when our neighbor was dealing with some mean girl drama. Her mom and I sat down with our kids and had them insert names to each of these characteristics. I have also put a copy on my refrigerator to remind my boys of what a friend looks like. I hope that you will do the same. It comes from a children's book called Confessions of a Former Bully. We have never read it, but it gets great reviews and I just love this excerpt! 

Really people! No one likes an a-hole! Young a-holes grow up to be big a-holes. In their path of destruction they not only hurt others, they hurt themselves. Your son is 150% capable of doing EVERYTHING on the right side of this chart. So don't act surprised when your phone rings and you learn that he was acting like an a-hole. Ask him if he has ever treated someone this way. Give him a chance to own it! Ask him if he's ever been treated this way. You just may learn something new and help him through any harbored negativity.

He is also 150% capable of doing EVERYTHING on the left side of the chart. Ask him to give you examples of a time when he was a good friend. Yes! I mean your middle and high schoolers especially! It's not a babyish conversation. It's something we have an obligation to do. It also reminds our children of our expectations and the Golden Rule.

If you've made it this far and you're saying "Stop your whining! It's just a will be kids...boys will be boys", then you're just the person who needs to read this, because obviously you've been fortunate enough to not be on the receiving end of this. So thank you for sticking around. Hopefully, you took away a nugget.

Alright, I will now step down from my soapbox. But please! I'm begging you... Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be A-holes! Start the conversation now. It's never too late.


1 comment :

Unknown said...

My kids have been on both sides of this. We all should be teaching our kids this stuff. Love Willie Nelson too!