Today I want to talk about bullying. I know this is a prominent subject in today’s world. There are a lot of anti-bullying campaigns out there and people do one of two things now at seeing them.
- They become numb to it and think it is over exaggerated and needs to go away.
- They support it and actually become interested in the subject.
Either way, In my opinion, we are having the WRONG conversation and headed down the wrong path in these campaigns. Because of this, I do not see anything changing anytime soon. If we continue to swing the pendulum to extreme opposite sides of this teeter-tauter in this back and forth tug-o-war, we are going to make this situation worse, NOT BETTER. I already see this happening on a regular basis.
Most of the Anti-Bullying campaigns out there today focus on helping the victim attain tools to better deal with the after effects. While I agree that this needs to happen, I do not agree that it should be the sole focus. In doing it this way we are telling the victims it is their fault, that what happens to them does not matter and that they are correct in having zero confidence and self-esteem because the bullies are right, there is something wrong with THEM.
On the other end of this spectrum, I see the campaigns that demand harsher punishment and consequences towards the bullies inflicting all of the pain and trauma on their victims. While I agree that this also needs to happen and I am all for bullies having harsher consequences (at the appropriate ages), I do not agree that as a society we need to be arresting Kindergartners and placing them in handcuffs in the back of a police car. This takes it way too far. I mean come on people, we as adults need to have more common sense here. What possible benefit other than scaring the hell out of and traumatizing a child who is too young to understand would this situation have? In my opinion, it would create more of a problem with the child in the future as a direct result.
So what is the answer? I think that is something a lot of us have been trying to figure out. Before I get into my suggestion of what needs to happen on this subject moving forward I want to share with you some of my backstory.
Because of my hearing issue I talked loud. I was an awkward and clumsy child, a push over and allowed others to boss me around. I was shy and goofy. You know the type, the one that is just kind of there but does not talk and chooses to hide in a corner rather than take part. Now, because of these traits, I was also the victim of bullying throughout my entire life. I was the one getting thrown into the garbage can in the lunch room and had food trays dumped on my head, I was given swirlies at least twice in my childhood. I was called names, told I would never amount to anything and just brutalized. I became extremely depressed and before the age of 11 tried to kill myself 7 times. Yes, you heard that correctly. No one seemed to take notice or even care that I was suffering. But that is a subject for a different day.
I am now the parent of a child who suffers this same fate. Instead of writing a little bit about her story, You can watch this 28-minute video we created a few years back giving you a first-hand look at the effects of bullying from a kids perspective.
Now having a firm grasp on my experience with this subject and knowing I am not just someone who wants to superimpose myself into a topic I know nothing about, I feel comfortable sharing my viewpoint and suggestion on where we should go from here.
First and foremost, we need to educate! Not the just the victims. We need to develop a clear and concise education plan to give knowledge to the victims, bullies, parents of both, educators, administrators, teachers, and anyone who will listen. This education plan needs to include the following:
- What makes a bully a bully-
-How this trait is learned and not inherited genetically. One is not simply born a bully.
2. What skills parents are either lacking or teaching their children in order to allow their child to become a bully.
-In today’s society, parents are too busy working or with their own lives, they do not pay attention to what their children are doing. When they are home they are so stressed out from their busy lives they tend to be quick to snap at others.
3.What actions children are witnessing in their environment to help foster bullying.
-The more time goes on, society is becoming more and more acceptable towards things that once were intolerable.
4. What educators, teachers, administration and those involved in our school systems are doing to prevent bullying and why it is not working.
-Having a once a year assembly or small talks and programs such as the Fill Your Bucket campaign are a good start. But these programs do not address the real issues nor do they provide adequate knowledge to administration and educators on what steps to really take on a day to day basis.
5. Holding both children AND their parents accountable for bullying.
-While children from MIDDLE SCHOOL up do need to be held accountable for their actions. I feel like PARENTS of any age student (from 5 years old up to 18) need to be held accountable for their children’s actions. We have truancy officers who come to your door and arrest a parent if the child misses too much school. Well, don’t you think parents will start taking an interest in their child’s behavior if they know THEY will be held accountable for any bullying action their child takes. If parents are forced to go through parenting classes (bullying classes) or faced with arrest if their children are bullying, their behavior towards bullying will change.
6. Teaching children the skills of what to do and how to act when they see or witness bullying.
-This one is for the witnesses of bullying. Not the victim and not the bully. Our children need to be taught to stand up against any action they see that is deemed as bullying. They need to be taught to get an adult and if one is not around to intervene and try and stop it. To speak up and ask the bully to stop instead of standing around laughing and thinking it is funny. As adults, we can be held accountable if we see a crime happening and do nothing to stop it, prevent it or report it. Why can’t the same be done for those children who stand around laughing and egging it on instead of trying to stop it? Once children and adults figure out that there will be strict consequences for this, I believe things will start to change.
7. Giving victims of bullying skills to help them through the situation as it is happening as well as after.
-If we give a victim of bullying the confidence, power, and knowledge needed to appropriately deal with these issues as they happen, there will be a lot less fallout from it in the aftermath.
8. Holding our school administration and educators responsible for every single reported incident that happens in their school that they did nothing about or took the cheapest, easiest, and most convenient way out of.
-If we have given these people the knowledge to handle bullying and they choose to sit back and sweep it under the rug, they need to be held accountable. This can be in the form of suspensions without pay, firing those liable, a public announcement letting the community know what happened and what the school did, to even withholding funds from the school or requiring every educator and administrator in the district to go through mandatory classes. If school districts become aware that they will be held accountable for their lack of preventing bullying, I believe they will start to show more interest in the students that attend and actually start taking action against bullying.
9. Change the discussion from blaming the victim or making the victim feel like it is their fault.
-We have got to stop making the victims feel like they somehow brought on the bullying themselves. Like in the case with my daughter where the school gave her a notebook and told her to write down every incident that happens then turned around and pointed fingers at her like she did something wrong. Saying things like she was too sensitive, or not on the same level socially. This way of thinking and dealing with bullying is never going to earn the results we want. It will not prevent nor improve bullying.
Every single one of these items plays an active roll in bullying or the prevention there of. If even one item is left off or ignored, nothing is going to change. We can, as a society start to bridge the gap. We can make a difference for the victims and the bullies. Let’s start having the correct conversation. Let’s head in the correct direction. Let’s build the skills, tools, and resources that actually CAN make a difference. Let’s build the correct system and put it in place within our society.
That folks, is my two-cents on bullying. Let me know what you think.