At some point in our lives when we were older, we took delight in bullying kids by means of teasing them until they bawl out of frustration. And when the child reacts, we adults often take it as an attack on our “authority” over them, hence we show enough force to keep the kid scared for another day.
Why in the world do we do it? Maybe because some of us view children as hopeless little losers. Or perhaps it’s a way of establishing our ‘authority’ being the grown up among the growing up, or maybe because we want to avenge ourselves of our past humiliations by adults when we were kids.
The often unseen, neglected side of the coin
The problem with such power tripping on children is the long-term effects of bullying to them when they mature, which of course varies from one kid to another. The kids will eventually outgrow their childishness, become discerning teens and eventually adults. It would have been sufficient if it was explained later on, that those were just pranks not intended to harm their self-esteem. But that’s hardly ever the case. They even label you as a ‘pussy’ for not being able to handle their ‘little jokes’.
While some kids eventually outgrow them, others cannot help but nurture loathing and harbor feelings of anger towards the adults who had been bullying them in their childhood. While suppressed negative emotions such as anger do not necessarily end up in direct assault by the bullied kids when they grow up, they can develop lasting feelings of lost respect towards the grownups and apathy.
And when they inevitably reach their saturation point and it clicks, it’s all over. The harrowing experiences of shame and anger is permanently etched in their long-term memory. There’s nothing much you can do to change their minds after that. Sure the kids might still talk to adults after but the respect they once had already vanished into thin air.
I once thought this was the norm. That it’s just something children inevitably needs to deal with.
That is until I heard stories of my father-in-law.
“Not on my watch.”
He didn’t tolerate any grownups teasing his children to the extent that his kids would be begging for them to stop until they cry, especially when it comes to food. He would often reproach erring adults by telling them “Ala sigi, isuru yu dagita nga mapukaw tu ti respeto da kadakayo.” (You’re teaching them to lose their respect towards you with what you’re doing.)
He did not just apply the rule to his children, he made it sure that other kids within his care will be treated right thus consequently teaching them to respect others as well. And when those kids grew up and became adults, the respect, that high regard towards the old man never departed such that they even accorded him the same esteem while he was on his deathbed.
But it went beyond that.
He walked the talk such that the respect they gave him transcended his death such that his children now receives the same esteem from the other kids (now responsible adults with their own families) he once taught.
The gift that keeps on giving and giving
It might have been an unpopular stance but he did not care because he knew better which is why he did better.
Why? Because he believes respect knows no age limit, be it a 2 year old kid or an adult. There’s an acceptable limit to teasing in the spirit of fun and play. But if what we as adults deem as fun results to harbored anger and resentment of the child towards himself and others, then we should by all means know better.
What he taught them while he was alive transcended his human form and continues to teach me to this day, years after his death.
Truly, the goodness he had sown still ripples to this day. The bounds of which only God can tell.