“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” A year ago I wrote an article with the same title. No other quote will suffice. Parents are all too familiar with this quote and as the new school year is well underway, homes around the country are filled with conversations regarding the unhappiness of our children due to bullying and/or exclusion.
Over the last seven plus years, I have shared my story of being a bully while growing up in Kansas City. The definition of a bully is “someone who repeatedly and consistently goes out of their way to make someone feel less than.” Unfortunately, harming others was a way of life for me. Why? An absolute unwillingness to be honest about my own trauma and pain. We each have two choices when suffering; we can transform it into healing energy for ourselves and others or we can pass that negative energy to others in the hopes of getting temporary relief. The latter is why we have an incredibly high level of discomfort happening in our schools and society. Most of us prefer temporary relief to permanent freedom.
When I harmed others, I experienced a pause from the pain. Watching others suffer was the great distraction. Before bullying, I used food, riding my bike to Safeway in Prairie Village to grab some Cheetos or Hostess Ding Dongs. Quite the summer itinerary. Later, when bullying and food were no longer effective, booze and drugs delivered the impermanent recess from the black hole of my soul. Stumbling into sobriety on my 30th birthday (22 years ago), allowed me to embark on a journey of introspection and self-discovery. Internal issues were addressed with rigorous honesty. The default of blaming and resenting others for my experiences were intensely challenged. The process assisted in formulation of who I am today. Operating from my Truth and making amends to the people I had harmed, when possible, resulted in a freedom I had not known. This liberation allows me to share my story with others in hopes they too, will find some peace and permanent relief.
The challenge with true happiness is it demands we look within. The answers are always inside the operating system, and yet, we look externally for those explanations. What is an external answer? Placing blame, bullying, booze, gossip, complaining and so on and so forth. The list is endless. The internal question and answer game demand radical personal responsibility regarding how we operate and an unquenchable thirst for our own Truth. Most of us are unwilling to do this kind of work until we run out of options. The greatest gift of my alcoholism has been my lack of options.
What does all of this have to do with home? Whatever you model for your kids is the operating system they will migrate towards. It’s not what we are saying, it is who we are being.
Here are some suggestions to help your kids and yourself.
- Be honest with your kids about your own struggles. Imagine how powerful it is to see your parents vulnerable. Hint: astute children already know what is occurring.
- Be unconditional in your love for your kids. Seems basic? Ask yourself how often you are transactional in your parenting style. We all do it. It’s scary and we don’t realize it.
- Make home the safest place for you and your family members. No judgement, no fear of retribution, just a ton of love and understanding…on the regular!
- Explain the pain. Let your kids know that when people do and say negative things, it’s the only option currently available. The more trauma and abuse someone experiences, the more intense the out lash.
Over the last year, my family has been cyberbullied and harassed in a way I find inexplainable. The level of dishonesty has been mind-blowing. The perpetrators are in pain that none of us can imagine. I don’t always walk the walk, and yet I make every best effort. My wife and I demand the same of our children and I couldn’t be more proud of how they handle themselves. Are we perfect? Of course not. I have always shared my story with my kids and as a result, they do not stand by when an injustice takes place. Being the children of a childhood bully comes with built in parameters. I did not raise my children to be bystanders because I am clear on the damage I created during my journey. I share this with you because it is important to my wife and I’s reputation and my children’s well-being. Bullying at any age is wrong. No matter what the circumstances or the level of pain and trauma. My silence and inability to share these stories to help others because of this cyberbullying is officially over. My family and I are quite comfortable with our Truth and how we carry ourselves. It’s been a long journey for all of us which started with an 11-year-old going through his parents’ divorce in 1979.
I ask each of you to consider how can you be more connected with your own Truth? I promise it is the single most important thing you can do for yourselves, your kids, and your community. Here is a final quote to consider; “Discover yourself, otherwise you will have to depend on other people’s opinions who don’t know themselves.” Osho.
Bash & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty is an innovative full-service residential real estate brokerage that leverages the latest technology to serve clients in emerging, established, and luxury neighborhoods across the Kansas City area. Follow them on Instagram here and on Facebook here.