What I Told My Six Year Old About Steubenville

I admit I didn’t know much about the situation in Steubenville until I started reading the coverage of the verdict.  I tend to be a bit out of the loop and maybe people have been talking about it for quite some time and I had no clue.  On Tuesday, I listened to the audio of that leaked video of some kid making light of the incident.  I don’t know how to add that video to a post, but Google it if you’re interested.

I have a pretty strong stomach but that video was disgusting. The kid talking in the video should be ashamed of himself and the person who shot it should have stopped and told this kid how sick his comments were.  He joked about someone he knew being raped and urinated on.  He compared her rape to other assaults we’ve heard about in the news and have seen in movies.  Clearly something about the forceful penetration and degradation of another person is funny to him.  I don’t understand that at all.

When I got home from work on Tuesday, I was greeted by the sweet face of my 6 year old son.  It occurred to me that these boys involved in this crime used to be 6 years old.  They used to be someone’s sweet faced little boy.  So what happened?  What changed that?  Whether those boys changed that day or in the years leading up to the incident isn’t relevant.  Something inside these kids malfunctioned and their red flags didn’t go up that something was wrong.

I’m not blaming their parents or anyone for that matter.  But what I am saying is that it occurred to me that if I didn’t start talking to my son immediately, I would be part of the problem.

And that’s when I decided to sit my son down and talk to him.  More or less, here is what I said to him:

Nathan, what I’m about to tell you is very important and I need you to understand.  I need you to tell me if you don’t understand and ask me questions if you have any.

It is never, ever OK to hurt other people.  It’s never OK to touch another person’s body if they don’t want you to.  I know that you know this already.

But what I want to make sure you know is that it’s also not OK to let those things happen to someone else.  If you know someone is being hurt or touched, you need to tell me.  Even if you think you’ll get in trouble, you will never get in trouble with me for that.  Even if you’re embarrassed or scared or sad or mad, you need to tell me.  Because someone being hurt is so wrong that a grown up needs to know.

Even if your friend tells you something and makes you swear you’ll never tell, you need to tell me.  Even if a grown up says if you tell you’ll get hurt, you need to tell me.  I will never get mad at you for telling me the truth, especially if it’s because you are worried about someone.

Also, we do not laugh at other people being hurt or made fun of.  If you don’t want to tell your friends to stop laughing at something like that, I understand because that is hard to do.  But you tell me.  And if you can tell them to stop, that’s even better.  I don’t care if you don’t like the person they are laughing at either.  It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to be respectful of everyone.  We are all people and none of us deserve to be hurt or made fun of.

When I asked if he understood, he said he did.  His only question was to ask why I was telling him this.  So I told him two boys hurt a girl in their class very badly and will go to jail for it.  But lots of other kids knew about it and laughed about it.  That poor girl did not deserve that.  It was mean for those boys to do and it was mean for kids to laugh at her because of it.  It was mean for people not to believe her when she said she was hurt.

I told him that I know he’s not a mean boy, but I know it is easy to get confused when all of your friends think something is OK or think it’s funny.  I told him that if his heart or his brain told him something wasn’t right, he needed to talk to an adult about it.

I don’t know if I said too much or too little, but I couldn’t not talk to him about it.  He may only be 6, but someday he won’t be and I don’t want him making mistakes because we didn’t talk about things.  I don’t ever want him to be mixed up in something like this and I’m not so naive as to say my boy will never make mistakes.  I’m sure the parents in Steubenville never thought their boys would end up this way.  Maybe they had talks with their sons like I did but this still happened.  I just don’t know.

The world scares me sometimes and trying to steer my son in the right direction seems an overwhelming task.  But I’ll keep trying and I’ll keep talking.  I hope he keeps listening.

Hanging out over at the weekend moonshine grid with my favorite Yeah Write people.  Head over, I’m sure you’ll find something good to read.

25 Responses to “What I Told My Six Year Old About Steubenville”

  1. Robbie says:

    you are so right the world can be a very scary lace. It sounds like you gave him the right amount of information for a 6 year old.

    • I’ve always tried to not talk down to him and at times I’ve definitely talked above him. I was worried this wouldn’t register. It seemed to, but then again I think empathy and thinking about others is hard for kids at his age. I hope it sunk in. I’m sure we’ll revisit the topic.

  2. You are a great mom, Michelle. I have been so disgusted watching that coverage. I’m also mad at the immunity deals, but I guess that was the only way to get the worst two. I have not talked to Shane about that with the case in mind. But I do point out to him, when I’m on field trips or at the school, when people are mean and how that’s not right. Shane is sweet too. But maybe I need to step it up a notch.

    • We talk about the mean behavior we see, too. It’s sad how mean these kids are to each other! I remember sitting around as a kid and making fun of someone (not on this level, of course) but I hope he’ll be a better kid than I was. And I want him to know he can talk to me, even if it’s this serious. I can’t imagine all those kids thought this was ok. Surely some knew and maybe didn’t want to rat out popular kids. Regardless, it’s sad. The immunity deals are tough to swallow. I just feel bad for the girl and her family. As if rape isn’t bad enough, all this aftermath.

  3. Christie says:

    I think you did a great thing. Good for you.

  4. Ken says:

    If you keep doing what you’re doing, I honestly don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about. Good job mom. :)

    • Thanks Ken. I know I can’t control him and we all make mistakes growing up, but I hope I can give him a good enough foundation that they are nothing like what happened in Steubenville.

  5. Kianwi says:

    That was an excellent conversation! It is never too early to start conversations like that. And I imagine you’ll keep having that conversation in more advanced terms as he grows. Because that is a concept you want firmly ingrained in his head!

    Not only do you want a child that doesn’t hurt other people, but you also want one that sticks up for people, too. If just one person had said, ‘this is wrong’, it might have stopped it. So sad.

    • I hope we can keep talking like this. Maybe if he’s used to doing it by the time he’s a teenager he won’t shut me out. That’s what I’m afraid of.

      I know he’s going to do dumb stuff, we all do, I just hope he knows the difference between dumb stuff and outright acts of violence.

  6. cierralynn says:

    Wow! Go Mom! I googled the video, here is the link : http://youtu.be/KZezUlLFWxQ
    I made it to 4:53 before I immediately reported it. Is it bad that I pity those boys for thinking its okay to speak about women that way.

    • Thanks for the link. It’s a horrible video, isn’t it? I didn’t finish it either. He just went on and on like a one man show. I don’t understand. One crude comment is bad enough, but this was just absurdity.

      I think it’s natural to pity them. I hope they learn something from this because they are just kids. They do have a lifetime of being out in the world with women and they are going to have to learn to act appropriately. They will likely have children of their own some day and I hope they teach them to do better. I do pity them.

  7. Michelle, though the topic is awful to fathom, how you addressed it with your son is simply amazing. He’s blessed to have you as a mom.

  8. Wow, this put tears in my eyes. I think you did an amazing job addressing a heartbreaking topic. I might steal this script for when my son is a little older.

  9. Kudos to you! I think so many times we miss opportunities like this to instill the morals we want in our children.

  10. Bee says:

    Whether or not Nathan understood, I think it was a great way to explain it to him. It was brave of you to bring up the subject to him at all.

  11. You are such a good mama. I’m a little teary-eyed too right now. Abuse is never funny, and it just kills me when situations like Steubenville happen. I think you’re on the right track to raising a good man.

    • Thanks Natalie. I remember being young and I know how kids talk and make fun of others, etc. I’m not saying it’s ever right, but certainly it wasn’t on the Steubenville scale. I know guys (and girls) called girls sluts and started rumors and all that, but this isn’t the same. And while I don’t want to make it about social media (because it absolutely isn’t), SM does play a role in how these rumors can spread more quickly. I want my boy to be responsible for the things he says and does and to understand how hurtful these things can be.

  12. I think you did an absolute perfect job. The Steubenville situation is as baffling as it is heartbreaking. Because I can’t help but wonder how all of those kids were raised that something like this could happen and not one of them said a word.

    • Exactly. This isn’t what it was like for me growing up. It’s all new to me and I raising a boy is so unfamiliar (I know how girls are, boys are another matter!) that I don’t quite know what to say. I know “boys will be boys” but this is way beyond that. This is just unfathomable.

  13. cynk says:

    I’ll second the many other opinions-I admire that you broached a difficult topic, and I think you handled it well.

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