Funnyman Chris Rock Is Serious About Parenting
Can Bullying Really Be Good?
Catherine Bradshaw, PhD, MEd, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Prevention and Early Intervention, says of Rock's "perfect storm" position: "It's good he can frame his experiences in a positive way and use them as a motivator, and he's providing insightful commentary," she says.
"But many of us don't have the ability to look back with a positive reflection, much less navigate the experience when it's happening. You've probably heard of the 'It Gets Better' campaign [a series of online PSAs that reminds bullied kids that soon enough these tough years will be behind them]. Youth going through the throes of bullying often don't have the insight to say to themselves, 'Oh, in 20 or 30 years I'm going to feel differently about the experience, and things are going to get better for me.' If kids don't have a supportive home environment to talk things through, they may not have the reserves to cope."
Remarkably, Bradshaw says, when she conducts seminars on bullying and asks audience members if they have been bullied in the past, it's not only the Bill Gates types who raise their hands. Nearly everyone does. "Research shows that 80% of youth have experienced some form of bullying," she says, adding, "It's clear Chris was touched profoundly by his experience, because he continues to draw upon it in his work all these years later."
Bradshaw does back up Rock's belief that he may be a funnier man because of those Brooklyn baddies: "Some research does show that youths who can draw upon sarcasm as deflection can handle these instances better than kids who really internalize these actions."
Chris Rock on Helicopter Parents
Rock is reflective about his childhood battles, but he wonders if his own kids possess the same well of strength from which to draw.
"My oldest is 11," he says, "and when I was her age I used to make breakfast for three of my brothers. Sure, breakfast was just heating up water and pouring out packs of oatmeal, but still. I would get three kids ready for school, then myself. My mother and father would see us out, and look over my work. 'OK! Andre's a little dirty here. You didn't wipe the crust out of his eyes!' Like, I would get graded on how I handled my brothers. My girls are not ready for that!"
It's clear times have changed. "For every generation, the previous generation makes it easier," the star muses. "So what happens is, the next generation doesn't have to be as smart or as disciplined. Things aren't as bad."
So, are modern parents hovering too much and demanding too little, as popular opinion suggests? Bradshaw says no. "I would argue that life is more complex now than when we were kids," she says. "Social media, television, video games -- it's a really heavy cognitive load for children, who must make decisions as they navigate through this social media world. We're not buffering them too much. There's simply a higher level of risk kids are now exposed to, whether it's violence on TV, kids carrying weapons to school, or being faced with bullying, even in the cyber realm."