In life, as in sports, I have but one rule: Don’t be an asshole. Adults owe a duty to the world to avoid being an asshole. As parents, we owe a duty to make sure our kids aren’t assholes either.
When it comes to my children, rose-colored glasses have never graced my face. Maybe it’s because I’m parenting two extremely loud and energetic children who are best described as “impulse-control challenged.” I’ve probably said, “Oh shit, what did my kid do now?” two trillion times in the past 13 years. But as goofy and hyper as my kids are, they are not mean. They aren’t perfect, and I am open to the fact that either of them could get caught up in a social situation where being a jerk to someone earns them some cool points. It’s my job to make the time and effort to ensure any asshole behavior is nipped in the bud. I demand kindness from my children, and I am responsible for making sure they are being kind — not just when they are in front of me.
However, a lot of parents out there are very comfortable in their little town of Oblivion on the banks of Denial. Parents who automatically think, my kid would never do that, instead of doing a little investigation. Parents who have no idea what their child is writing on a peer’s Instagram feed. They see their kid as popular and just bask in that fact, ignoring the signs that their child became popular through social domination and exclusion.
In 2016, you have to take off those glasses and do your work as a parent.
Follow your children on social media. Yes, it’s sooo not cool. But so is not having access to social media because your parents found out you were being a bully. Check their texts, their Snaps, and their Instagrams.
Watch them interacting with their peers. It’s one thing to talk smack with another kid about their batting average, but it’s another to threaten violence or gang up on someone. Kids are rarely subtle — you can see in their body language when a child is being a jerk to another.
Ask your children’s teachers or guidance counselors what they see. You have to commit to proactive parenting — they’re not going to put “he’s an asshole” on your sixth-grader’s report card.
Ask the parents of your children’s peers for feedback. I have an agreement with many of my friends that if they see my kid is being a dick, I want them to tell me, and vice versa. It’s not a fun conversation, but the better informed you are, the better the outcome.
If you find out your child has harassed a peer, follow up with that child’s family. Don’t presume no news is good news. Your kid’s particular strain of asshole may be more resilient and need additional attention.
But whatever you do, take off those rose-colored glasses. It’s a harsh world for these kids, you can’t afford to be in the dark.