As we interact with educators, parents, and students, the pernicious issue of bullying keeps rearing its ugly head. So, we were pleased to learn that October has been named National Bullying Prevention Month.
Bullying is a huge social problem that’s become increasingly pervasive in our schools and communities, begging the question we often hear:
Is it possible to stop bullying? And if so, how?
We have some thoughts we’d like to share.
Step One: IDENTIFY the Real Problem (and the Real Bullies)
The reality is that most bullies wouldn’t call themselves bullies. That’s what happens when we put labels on behavior: it often makes it easier to pass the buck. “Who me, a bully? No way!”
Many (if not most) “bullies” find it difficult to identify themselves as such for a couple of reasons. For one, many children and young adults regularly experience intimidation, manipulation, exclusion, threats, emotional abuse, and even violence in their homes. Not surprisingly, they act out their own insecurities or desires for control the same way. And, they often get away with it.
Secondly, “bullying” has traditionally been thought of as tripping another kid in the hall or roughing him up against the lockers. Or, it’s been teasing someone in hushed whispers in the lunchroom or threatening to beat up another student unless she hands over her lunch money. Today’s bullying, however, tends to be much more personal and committed over cyberspace. Social media is lately the preferred venue for public humiliation, taunting, and threats.
Bullying is not just a behavior issue; it’s a heart issue, often borne out of personal insecurity. We can’t just change the way bullies act. We have to help them change the way they think: about the world, about other people, and about themselves. When schools, teachers, counselors, parents, and mentors step in to do just that, it can be the beginning of real personal transformation in the lives of the affected parties, both abusers and victims.
It’s the first step in shifting from reaction to prevention. And, that’s what it’s all about!
We’ll talk more about ways to do that in Part 2 of our bullying solutions series. Join us next week for “Bullying: Addressing the Heart Issue.” In the meantime, hit “share” and pass this post along to a friend or co-worker. Invite them into the conversation by encouraging them to subscribe to our e-newsletter. Let us hear your thoughts about and experiences with bullying by commenting below. We all have lots to learn!