Today on the news was a report that obese teenagers are not only more likely to be bullied (no surprise) but also more likely to bully. In my experience, the victim can often become the bully in a different situation. Understandable if they only know what they experience. (Just as abused children can turn into abusers.) If we follow the common logic which says that bullies come from neglectful parents then you can see the problem that we will run into. One year they are parents of a victim - innocent good parents whose child is being tormented. The next they are parents of a tyrant - negligent, brutal parents who have taught their child viciousness. Not possible, people! Bullies are bullies for many different reasons. It is time to stop blaming the parents. In fact, it is time to stop blaming the bullies. It is time to look at the environment that allows this to happen. And before you leap on me that I am blaming schools and once again allowing individuals to not take responsibility for their actions, let me clarify.
The environment that I am speaking about is not school. It is not the home. It is a society which does not make everyone responsible for his or her own actions. The bully is responsible for what he or she says or does. So is every other child in the playground or class. So is every person in that office. You are equally responsible if you stand by and do nothing. Inaction is an action. It is a decision. It is your responsibility. We all - bullies, bullied, and bystanders (to borrow a phrase from Barbara Coloroso) - need to create an environment that does not allow bullying to happen. Just like drinking and driving and smoking have become socially unacceptable, bullying must become that. People must stop looking the other way or searching for someone to blame. When you have a disease, cure the disease, then look for the cause.
New legislation calls for counseling for bullies and the bullied - a good start. It also calls for expulsion - a poor solution since it amputates the disease without regard for the child who is diseased. Always remember that bullies are children, too. The fourth part is that schools must support activities which promote understanding and acceptance of all. This is also good. But I strongly feel that they have missed the key ingredient in controlling bullying. We must take ownership of the problem, whether it occurs in school, home, or work. We must acknowledge it and accept that we each have a role to play. If all the children report bullying as they would report a child with a knife, then bullying will be reduced. We need to clarify, as a society, the difference between tattling and reporting a dangerous situation. Bullying is dangerous and destructive, in some ways more dangerous and destructive than a weapon. It is not hidden. All the children and most of the staff are very aware of what bullying is happening.
Bullying is being discussed in general term in schools around the country. I suggest we take it to the next step. Within the confines of each class, bullying needs to be addressed specifically when it occurs. You are not violating anyone's privacy - the children already know what has happened. Discuss the incident and come up with a solution that meets the needs of every child in that room - including the bully. Remember the original study that started this blog? Bullies and the bullied have a lot in common - low self-esteem, marginalization by their peers, lack of support. What have you done today to stop bullying?