It’s Just Kids Being…

If you’ve turned on a news magazine recently you’ve seen coverage of “The Bus Incident”.  I’m not linking the video, because it pains me to think about the torment that the 68 year-old monitor went through at the hands of the middle-school boys that attacked her verbally, let alone watch it again. After seeing the video (posted on Facebook by one of the boys) America wasted no time breaking into “talk-radio debates” about “what’s wrong with our culture” and the “bullying epidemic”. The chatter mostly comes from people confused and disturbed by “what’s going on with our youth” and how “violent media is corrupting our children”.  Show hosts offer resounding platitudes about “re-education” and “proper school funding” as if the problem on display was created by a school system that somehow forgot to tell children that it’s wrong to verbally abuse an elderly woman.

A woman who knows all of your names.

Because she has ridden the bus with you all year.

A woman who is being paid to supervise you.

As a 15 year veteran of active duty service to Jr. Highers in the live-fire environments of shopping malls, middle-schools, and summer camps I don’t think I have anything more important to offer the conversation than this:  All children, regardless of age will do with whatever they are allowed to get away with.

Teen-aged kids wreak havoc when they can, IF they can.

This isn’t a diatribe against teen-agers, because adolescents are a great age bracket to work with provided you also understand the flip-side of the above statements.  Specifically this:

Teenagers will rise to the level of success that they are called to rise to.

Young students do need to be educated, but does anyone actually believe that these kids have never been to a “bullying assembly” or a DARE class?  These children weren’t the inner-city oppressed, struggling to survive.  This happened in Rochester and while Rochester’s seen better days, there’s still a reason it’s called “upstate”.

Education is only as good as the testing and enforcement that follows it, and there is no time when this is more true than adolescence.

In various stages of development children (in order to mature) must attempt to establish autonomy.  The first of these times we call the “Terrible Twos”. During the “Twos”, kids assert their independence of authority; striving to develop mastery over themselves.  For safety’s sake, it’s the adult’s job to consistently re-enforce the boundaries that cannot be crossed, while encouraging the child towards freedom’s that are appropriate for healthy growth:

The child is allowed to walk where they want, until they head for the street.

These “grabs for independence” happen at many different stages in life, adolescence being just one.  During this time, children cannot simply be educated, education must be tested and enforced.  Consider this rite of passage:

Getting a drivers a license takes more than attending a class.

There’s a written test,

Followed by a practical test,

Which results in driving on streets,

Patrolled by traffic cops.

The bus monitor wasn’t bullied because kids were uneducated,  The kids bullying were in the middle of failing a “test” that had no power behind it.

Those with the power abused the powerless person.

So what stops this kind of behavior?

Does the bus monitor need a monitor?

What stops this type of bullying is training teens to act when they see bullying happening, and in that process teaching them that the authority to protect others rests with them… not someone else.

There were more than 10 kids on that bus.

It was a vocal minority harassing the monitor.

This means that a silent majority tolerated it,

When they had power to stop it.

It was a bus full of kids trained to be quiet, compliant, and unfortunately complicit.  Truth is, there are certain things that aren’t supposed to be tolerated.

Our current “anti-bullying” measures failed in this situation because they instruct children to “inform an adult”.  This teaches children to be silent, then to snitch.

If this worked, someone would have reported the incident right?

Actually the bullies snitched on themselves.

You might be thinking, “Jon those kids are aggressive and impulsive, they’re part of what’s wrong with kids today”, but I’d just ask you to consider the flip-side.

I know from experience that we get the behavior that we reinforce.  Those bullies can become great young men when leaders AND peers reinforce boundaries and redirect them to courageous living.

Impulsiveness and aggression are not character flaws.

America is great because impulsive, aggressive young people were pointed toward proper outlets for their behavior.

Soldiers run into battle.

Trauma teams crack open broken bodies.

Policemen protect the innocent.

Firemen sprint into blazes…

…and they don’t argue or hesitate because someone taught them to courageously stand up for what’s right.

 —

A powerful person needed to be riding that bus and while it should have been, it didn’t have to be, the monitor.  Training our kids means educating AND instilling the confidence and courage to stand up for others even when it could cost them dearly.

Kids will remain kids if you let them, but they will grow into adults if you call them forward.

It’s an essential undertaking, because there’s a generation of young heroes at stake.

If you don’t battle to train people up, you’ll just end up battling against them.

4 Responses to “It’s Just Kids Being…”

  1. Rick June 22, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Great post sir. I understand that in about 36 hours there has been approximately $300,000 dollars raised to give this woman a vacation. I guess that might be worth some of the headache. Watching that video clip was infuriating. I’m actually pretty surprised she didn’t lash out at those children somewhere along the line.

    • Jon June 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      That’s a great end not to this story! Glad to hear it!

  2. Sharon O June 22, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    I have not watched the video and don’t want to. My question is where was the bus driver? and if it is on video that means someone was recording it?
    sad…very sad.

  3. Rick June 22, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    The bus driver was driving the bus. The video was taken by the person sitting in the seat directly across from this woman. This was not a loud raucous bullying. The only way anyone else would know it was happening would have been because they were sitting in very close proximity to the woman. It was not loud or disturbing anyone else. There voices were low and they were not shouting and taunting her loudly. There were just two or three young kids doing the harassing and in a low voice as they were seated.

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