As a blogger for UFI, I scan the news each week for stimulating news to write about and comment on. Sometimes, I struggle, taking a while to find anything that I can say anything meaningful about. This week, however, I went almost immediately to a story on sibling bullying that made me boil.
The article, Sibling Bullying More Common Than Schoolyard Torment, Study Shows, equates sibling rivalry to bullying, and states that more bullying occurs on the top bunk than at school. Tracy Connor, the author, goes on to say that those finding themselves on the victim side of sibling bullying tend to normalize it. The author also makes brief mention of parent-child bullying.
This asinine article on sibling bullying proves that we have made way too much of bullying as a society. I grew up in a family of six boys. Being the oldest, I concede that I rarely treated my brothers with kindness, or they each other, or me. I regret some of the persecution I put my brothers through, when all I stood to gain from it was the satisfaction of hearing their cries of fear and frustration. At the same time, though, at school and in other social settings, being fairly small for my age and quite uncoordinated, I took my share of abuse from others. We lived according to a societal pecking order. When I walked out of the door, I was pretty close to the bottom. At home, however, I reigned supreme, after my folks, of course.
In retrospect, however, I am grateful for my trials, though difficult they seemed to me at the time. My brothers have all, except for the youngest, who was constantly shielded from bullying by my parents, turned out to be tough, both mentally and physically. I hasten to add that I do not approve of the mistreatment of others, but the natural occurrence of some maltreatment certainly serves a purpose, and might be better left unfettered. Furthermore, discipline by parents of children serves an even greater purpose, and at times, depending on the child and nature of the offense, the discipline may need to be meted with some severity. A great man, James E. Faust, once said: “If we do not discipline our children, society may do it in a way that is not to our liking or our children’s”.
Is it not better for a youth to gain experience through hard experience that may be managed within the home, rather than on the street, where his offended fellows and law enforcement officers will exercise far less restraint than siblings or parents in the home? Let us address the real problem: It is not a lack of ability that children have to deal with bullying, whether by siblings or otherwise. I do not doubt Connor’s statement that those exposed to sibling bullying are more likely to suffer emotionally later in life. But, is it really from the bullying?
If I persist in working out each day, but fail to eat properly, my body will eventually break down. Will children not do the same emotionally when bullied, in the absence of adequate love and support from parents and siblings, but especially parents? The bullying can certainly do damage, but it may be that it does damage as the workout might do damage. Not because the bullying is inherently dangerous, but that our homes and families and the proper relationships we should find within have been dismantled to such a degree that they no longer carry out their functions. Thus, the only way to remedy the problem is shielding children from adversity that in many instances may be both healthy and necessary.
Furthermore, what kind of a society are we, adults, grooming the next generation to be? Do you think that the World War II generation would have had the toughness to win the war had none of them ever been mixed up in regular fist fights, or received harsh discipline at times from parents? Do not those who have made great names for themselves in all kinds of endeavors often attribute their success to opposition they faced early on? James Polk and Harry Truman might have something to say along these lines.
There is much more I could say on this topic, but I will close with a poem by Douglas Malloch that summarizes the whole issue of adversity, which we seem anxious to eliminate at every turn:
The Tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.