A Bully: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller weaker people. Or, to act the bully toward, intimidate, domineer.
Bullies cross our path in every part of our lives. As a young man during middle school I was bullied. I don’t know that I understood what it was back then because it simply seemed a part of life. I would definitely have been defined in those years as an introvert and other than a few close friends and teammates from various sports teams I was not very outgoing. I guess this made me a good target for those that kids wanting to show how tough they were. What I am most proud of is that I didn’t back down to bullies I stood up and fought. After a couple of these conflicts the bullying for the most part stopped. And maybe learning to just walk away help taught me to handle it better.
I think we often assign in our minds that bullying only happens between kids at school. To me that is a very big mistake. Bullying happens in school, at home and at work. The news over the past several weeks has been filled with stories about Child Abuse and Domestic Abuse. In my opinion these are just other names for bullying. If you look at the definition above, bullying is about “intimidating smaller weaker people”. In Child Abuse an adult is intimidating, or worse a child. In Domestic Abuse an adult is intimidating, or worse another adult. Bullying has seemed to taken the name for child intimidating, or worse another child. I also think that people see bullying as physical. Yet bullying, in my mind as often happens, can certainly be as much if not more verbal then physical.
No matter the titles we want to assign for each of these areas of bullying, the important focus right is how do we get it to stop? There is no one simple answer. There are two areas on which I think our focus needs to be;
1) With Child Abuse and Domestic Abuse we are dealing with adults as the primary bully. And unfortunately, although I believe continuing education of perpetrators is helpful, the important thing is that we make the consequences meaningful. Our legal system has to set a tone. Businesses including Sports Teams, have to take a firm public stance against people convicted of Abuse. Including publishing an Abuser list as we do with sex offenders. Until there are real consequences we will struggle with stopping abuse.
2) With Bullying in the schools we have the most opportunity to make a difference for the future. Our educators have become more and more focused on #stopbullying programs. It seems they are working to make a difference. As we have seen on videos and in the news, no matter this focus, the schools can’t, and shouldn’t be expected to do it all themselves. We are not talking about an educational change we are talking about a change in culture. It will take the support of communities, businesses, educators and most importantly parents to help change from “this is a school problem” to this is an unacceptable problem that has no place in our society. Our best chance is to talk about acceptance. Talk about empathy and the importance of connecting with people and not judging. To set the standards for acceptable behavior and the standards for consequences for unacceptable behavior. With children those consequences would first involve further education on how to interact with people and their differences, or education on why bullying does not make you stronger it actually makes you weaker. This education must be supported by parents or counselors or both. We don’t have to mold children only in math, science, languages or physical education, we have to mold them on how to be part of society. Social studies and history are very important to the education of children. Yet how to be social and how to accept where people came from and how we are the same than different could make significant difference.
Although these two examples may not be considered bullying they are examples of cultural change and attitudes that feed a bullying culture. On the sports news this past weekend I saw a report about an adult at a College Football game who gave the middle finger salute to the opposing team after their team lost. When did this behavior towards people become acceptable? Is college football really that important that this behavior is ok? My Daughter who is 10 years old and her cousins who are 9 and 8 years had to leave a High School Football game because her Mom and Grandfather were being verbally abused by a parent for sitting on the wrong side of the field. They sat there because of her Grandfather’s sight. Is this a culture that will help stop bullying?
The one thing I know about bullying in any environment is that we have the ability to stand up and say no more. That we have the ability to make the choice to educate our children, and if needed adults, on how to connect with people in society. This is not a one day, or once a month issue. It is a 365 day a year issue. And we as a society need to choose to make a difference.