Bryan Short, 1997
Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?
In my neighborhood new babies are celebrated, as they probably are in yours, and in so many other locations, with much ado and great fanfare. There is much anticipation and celebration before the birth. Friends and neighbors can’t do enough. Mother is feted with parties. Fathers strut and preen as proud peacocks do. Jubilation is everywhere in the air.
After the birth, beaming parents parade bright-eyed, trusting, innocent, eager-to-learn newborns around for all to see the precious additions to the community. The babies are all duly oohed, ahhed and awed over as the beautiful miracles they are conceived to be.
All too soon some of the babies are being referred to as demanding, spoiled, manipulating, brats-usually with colorful references to the other biological parent as the cause, whether said influence is in residence or not. Basic genetics at work? Babies born bad and soon to be meaner than junk yard dogs? So it would seem if one listens and believes.
By toddlerhood it looks like the bullies are in control of everything but them selves…brutally smacking and tormenting anything that doesn’t move out of the way fast enough…including smaller babies and bigger, cowering siblings, harried caretakers, and stunned strangers.
Watching this play out year after year, I wonder where each sweet, innocent, prized and precious baby went. Where did this little terrorizing tyrant come from? The answer is usually obvious to anyone who watches…and it has nothing to do with changelings and ghoulish goblins who “pushed their way in and pulled baby out, leaving another made of ice.” (Maurice Sendak)
Almost all relatives, and those living in the neighborhood, offer advice when the bullying characteristics appear…”you’d better beat the devil out of that one while you can or you’ll be sorry later!” And many will do their perceived neighborly duty. They will help by yelling and swatting the child at every opportunity. And there will be opportunities- many- as the bully-baby roams with little supervision and rampages at will.
Not yet verbal, he becomes an easy target for blame by anyone seeking to shift responsibility or attention… which increases the smacks, swats, and beatings…which increases the bullying behaviors…
The child learns…what he is taught…behind closed doors and in the open.
In time, the child learns new behaviors…learns to bully without witnesses-becomes adept at lying and manipulation…learns to bluster, browbeat, buffalo, bulldoze, coerce, dominate, lean on, lord over, menace, oppress, persecute, terrorize, threaten, torment, torture, traumatize and tyrannize.
And no one involved, who should have been watching, is ever willing to “…go outside over there to rescue her baby.” (Maurice Sendak)
Until…the child is dragged or pushed to a doctor, then drugged based on a caregiver’s description of the born-bad child and professional observation of a child obviously disruptive and lacking self-control.
The child, not yet grown, will teach as he has learned. Eventually, the child comes of age and will reproduce in his or her own image. Of that you can be sure.
But if the child is lucky, if you are lucky, if we all are lucky, perhaps there was one, who “never knowing, hugged the changeling and ... murmured: ‘How I love you’.”
And that one person...perhaps its you?... knowing love, and giving it, can make all the difference for the child born "good" who never would have been otherwise. Of that you also can rest assured.
Sendak, Maurice. Outside Over There. Harper & Row. 1981.
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A Child is Waiting,
Take care...be aware,