Bullies and Bullying ~ Where Bullying Really StartsBy Darlene Ouimet
“It all starts with disrespect. Let someone disrespect you — don’t stand up for yourself right away — and it escalates to teasing and rumours or even physical abuse. But it all falls under same category: Bullying. By organizing Students Against Being Bullied (S.A.B.B.), I along with S.A.B.B. members hope to change the culture of bullying in my High School and across the state of New Jersey by stopping it before it starts.” Ashley Craig from the website Students Against being Bullied (S.A.B.B.)
Bullying is a huge problem in our society. I love what Ashley is doing here, especially since she is a student herself. Don’t get me wrong; my issue is not with bully programs. My issue is with the origins of bullying and whether or not those origins are being addressed.
My first concern is with using the word “LET” in the sentence “let someone disrespect you ~ don’t stand up for yourself right away.” I didn’t LET anyone bully me. I didn’t have a choice in the matter and using the word “let” implies that I could have stopped it. Please keep in mind that my bullies were adults’ way before they were other kids. I think that bullies learn to bully. Bullying is “modeled to them before they use bullying against others. Does it seem reasonable that a happy and well adjusted child just decides to overpower and abuse another child? I mean just out of the blue? I am all for facing the issues, but so often we look for the Band-Aids when we need to address the root of the actual problem.
How do bullies “pick” their targets? Do they pick on the child with the most self esteem in the class? NO they actually look for weaker kids to pick on and they learned that from somewhere too. I am not making excuses for the bullies; I am suggesting that there is an origin and that it doesn’t start with the kids.
I think that bullying another person is about trying to get some sort of good feeling or power surge from putting someone else down. I think that this is learned ~ that “the bully” has seen someone (likely an adult) in their lives get a power surge from picking on them, and the child turned bully has realized that over powering someone else is better than being overpowered. I think that bullies are kids who have been bullied by adults in the first place and that they are trying to have a little impact in their own lives. I think that adults that bully and abuse kids, communicate to the kids that the person with the most power is in the best position to be in, in life.
I have three children (all of them have graduated high school now) and each of them has dealt with bullying within the school system. The interesting thing is that the worst of the bullying was from the teachers but no one called that “bullying”. The teachers participated in the anti bullying programs, but I don’t think they ever considered that they themselves modeled bullying within the school as an acceptable and even functional way of operating. Teachers bullying children has been long accepted as part of school culture. They call it authority. They teach “respect” for authority while excusing the fact that things such as calling kids a bunch of brats, public humiliation, throwing chalk or other objects at students, denying human rights, swearing and threatening to do bodily harm are ALL abusive behaviours ~ some of them illegal, but they don’t consider that to be bullying. Teachers will use guilt and shame tactics to get students to do what they want. What about when the whole class knows that the teacher is “having a bad day” but no one considers that a bad day or a bad mood is NO excuse to treat others badly. How often do teachers have to apologize or even be accountable for anything they do when their actions express that a student is regarded as “less important or valuable” then the teacher or adult is? And since this type of adult on child bullying is not very often addressed or resolved it seems that our society accepts that teacher on student bullying is acceptable too. But accepting it or ignoring it doesn’t mean that it isn’t bullying.
My kids have been in 4 different schools since kindergarten so it isn’t that we just happened to go to a bad school.
I think it is time for our societies anti bullying programs to start talking about the abuse that kids learn to take from adults. All adults ~not just teachers, or parents, but coaches, bus drivers and store clerks. I know that child on child abuse IS a valid type of abuse and that bullying is a huge issue in our society, but what I am questioning here is “WHERE does bullying really START?” And is it a “learned behaviour?”
It seems that our whole society is based on a pecking order system and that somewhere along the way kids learn that the most powerful one wins. Bully mentality is like a “survival of the fittest” thing. There are thousands of examples of it in our society; Consider the misuse of power by those who are “in power”. Consider the adults who communicate to children that they don’t matter, or that their wishes and feelings don’t matter. Consider adults who abuse children physically, sexually, emotionally or spiritually. All of this is bullying. Think about adults who “feel better” about themselves when they reduce another human being to someone who is beneath them. Consider the feelings that come with making someone “less valuable than them”. Children learn that power is very often survival. They learn that the most powerful one wins.
Try teaching a young child to stand up for themselves if the bully is their parent. That won’t go over very well and most kids won’t tell an adult at school what is going on at home. I realize that this is a huge problem but I wonder if students had a few adults that they could actually trust; adults that modeled equal value for all people, if a bigger difference in school culture could be made. Maybe the focus could be more on adults and teachers as the role models to these kids and maybe they could be the recipients of the anti bullying training and bully awareness information. Maybe there should be a crack down on the adults and not just on the kids.
We teach this stuff to children about how to stand up for themselves when it comes to other children, but what about when it comes from adults? As Ashley says ~ “it all starts with disrespect” and children have a pretty hard time standing up to disrespectful adults, never mind getting “permission” to stand up to disrespectful and bullying adults.
Would a teacher throw something at another teacher to get their attention? Would a teacher call another teacher a brat or a moron? I don’t think so. Would a teacher make another teacher do push-ups as a consequence or send a parent helper to stand in the corner? So why can they treat kids that way? The way that we model behaviour to kids is how they learn how relationships work. When humiliation tactics work, humiliation tactics become the acceptable way to conduct a relationship. These students grow up to be adults with kids of their own.
If we are going to stop bullying where it starts, I think we have to really take a look at where it actually starts and start there.
Please share your thoughts,
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