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April 4, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Ngāi Tauira – Hey You, Big Kid! Read Me!

Ah, childhood. Ideally, a time where a kid can be a kid, where innocence reigns supreme and responsibilities is just a big word for big people.

Play was fun and careless. You ran, you climbed trees, you made sandcastles, you ate Play-Doh, you broke things, you laughed, you got growled at, you cried, and maybe you even got smacked/wooden spooned/jandled/jug corded. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Even I can remember being smacked once, and that was for kicking a hole through the door. Yeah, go my four-year-old self.

That was pre-Anti Smacking Bill days, of course, but I bet you can still remember what it felt like (I can!), and I bet most of you look back on your childhood fondly, smacking and all. You survived. We survived. Childhood.

But despite the ‘good times’ of the good old days, today, childhood seems to be getting shorter and shorter. I’ve got no facts or figures to back this up (and it’s only for the lack of trying) but off the top of my head, the names of Nia Glassie and the Kahui twins remind us simply, violence exists in kids’ lives. It’s not OK. But it’s still happening. And some kids don’t get to live out their childhood.

Now there’s the recent spotlight on bullying with cases all over New Zealand emerging. The story of 15-year-old Casey Heynes of Australia seems to be inspiring others to come forward—like 14-year-old Michaela Blaauw of Auckland, who was bullied at school and threatened on Facebook, and 15-year-old Robin de Jong of (or now formerly of) Whanganui, who was filmed getting sickeningly beaten up. Violence. It’s not OK, but for some kids, it’s reality—whether in the home, at school or on the streets. Despite what we want to believe, these are only stories that have come out to the public—there are plenty more that we haven’t heard about, and probably never will.

So what can we do about it? Well, here’s a piece of advice that was handed down by some pretty knowledgeable people from back in the days:

“Tamariki wāwāhi tahā aratakina ki te mātāpuna o te mōhio, o te ora, o te maungārongo”

This proverb talks of how ‘mischief’ kids (but this can apply to all kids… and even some adults) should be guided to the ‘source’ of knowledge and understanding, health and wellbeing, and peace. Not bad, eh? It’s not exactly your step-by-step guide to being a role model, but hey, it gives you room for interpretation. And anyone adhering to this advice is definitely helping a kid to become a pretty well-rounded person.

So just be involved. No doubt you know a little kid out there who can do with a role model. Be one. For your little brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces and even their friends—stand up for them. After all, we don’t have the concept of ‘tuakana/teina’ for nothing! Don’t be a bystander, get involved (and I don’t mean in a ‘jump-in-and-bash-the-other-guy-up’ involved either, people!), because kids learn by example.

Also, while I’m on a roll of spreading words of wisdom, how about we look at ourselves? Think about the next time you’re teasing, ‘play-hitting’, spreading gossip or calling someone names. Just stop and ask yourself—are you really just kidding around? Or are you just being a dick? Because if you’re just being a dick, cut it out. It’s not cool and you’re an idiot. Grow up.

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