Does a song from your childhood ever randomly pop in your head? It happens to me a lot and if you were raised in an evangelical church like I was, you probably know the song that was recently stuck in mine. The lyrics go like this:
Be careful little ears what you hear. Oh, be careful little ears what you hear. There's a father up above who is looking down in love, oh be careful little ears what you hear.
Be careful little eyes what you see. Oh, be careful little eyes what you see. There's a father up above who is looking down in love, oh be careful little eyes what you see.
Be careful little mouth what you say. Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. There's a father up above who is looking down in love, oh be careful little mouth what you say.
We were taught this to keep from sinning. I won't get into the indoctrination and fear message behind teaching this to young ones in a religious setting - that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post has to do with bullying.
Hear me out.
My daughter was bullied. In middle school, people would call her names, pull her hair, and surround her in a circle and make fun of her. They would make animal sounds at her, tease her, and visibly whisper about her. When we moved across the world, she told her friends to tell the bullies that she had died. That's right, she would rather fake her death than to face those kids again. The grim reality is that many kids have choose to end their life because of this.
In our house we are very open about our mental health and expressing our emotions so openly talking about this has become a source of healing for all of us. On a lunch date one day, I asked her why she thinks kids bully. She had several answers which included the influence of friends and the influence of social media, but her first answer stunned me.
She said, "I think kids bully because they see adults do it. They are influenced from a young age, and they think it's ok. They are learning by example."
Ouch. I couldn't stop thinking about it.
For the rest of the week, I found myself listening to what was on the news, Youtube, and social media. I noticed my own words, and I became extremely aware of how adults talk to and about each other.
While the vast majority of adults do not surround other adults, pull their hair, or trip them in the hallway, adults do bully each other. Adults gossip. Adults shame. Adults talk behind other people’s backs, and make fun of people - especially if they don't think like, act like, or believe like they do. It can be subtle, or it can be loud. Often, it's justified by needing to vent, prove a point, the promise not to tell anyone, or in the name of a good laugh. And, the hard truth is that it's easiest to do all of this in the comfort of our own homes while our kids are watching and listening.
I know, I know. We would never intentionally teach our kids to bully. In fact, in most homes, we teach children it is extremely wrong. But I think we, as adults, can take it one step further. We can be careful what we say about others - especially in front of our kids.
We are the first and best examples for our children and I believe stopping bullying starts with us.
All of this brings me back to the third verse in that childhood church song. I changed the words a bit and it's become a great reminder - especially when it gets stuck in my head!
Be careful little mouth what you say, oh be careful little mouth what you say. There's a child in your home who is learning how to love, oh be careful little mouth what you say.