There has been a lot of talk lately about bullying.
And, that's a good thing. It's something everyone, not just parents and children, should talk about.
Because, when it comes to bullying, the consequences are often tragic, sometimes fatal. It can also be said that bullying is a symptom of other problems in our society, not the least of which are violent crime, child abuse and spousal abuse.
Don't get the idea that bullying is something new. Homo sapien is an aggressive species. Just because we can reason, just because we have the capacity for compassion and for love that is separate from sex, doesn't mean that we aren't fiercely competitive. One has only to look at the vituperation bandied about in our political system or the theatrics of professional wrestling to see the evidence of that.
Our sensibilities, however, bring with them other troubling psychological problems that many experts link to the problem of bullying, including low self-esteem, lack of assertiveness or an overabudance of assertiveness, anger, depression, aggressive behavior, and especially a lack of empathy.
Make no mistake, the problem is not limited to youths, although early childhood is almost always where it starts. More often than not, its seeds are planted long before a child enters the education system.
While the problem is not new, the evolution of popular culture over the past few decades has contributed to the decline of empathy - a chef screaming thinly bleeped obscenities at a cowering underling on reality TV, unfettered violence in video games, social media that often becomes fairly anti-social. They all play on our propsensity for aggression.
Where it starts, however, is in the home. If parents don't implant empathy and a sense of sharing at age 2 or 3, the school system is going to have a difficult time doing it later.
And yet, the hue and cry is that the education system isn't doing enough to curtail the bullying problem. You'll notice we said curtail and not eliminate, because total elimination of bullying is as elusive as the total elimination of crime.
The school system can only do so much. Basic parenting is the responsibility of parents. Unfortunately some parents - too many parents - abdicate that responsibility, expecting society to do it for them.