I was going to write a long post about bullying. It would have referenced the school in Ohio where four teens have killed themselves (at least three directly from bullying) and I would have discussed the marvelous memoir of a bullied childhood from the Single Dad Laughing blog. I would have made observations about the increasing hold bullying has on the national media – note these pieces in People magazine from their front cover.
Then I realised that none of those stories were helping to fix anything. None of the parent groups calling for the heads of the school administrators were offering solutions. It’s easy to be angry about bullying and bullies. There’s a clear villain and clear victim in the story. But if you’re just getting angry, how are you helping?
And so the heading of my post changed from “The Bullying Story” to “3 Things You’re Not Being Told About Bullying (And How To Stop It)”. This is aimed at schools, but applies equally to anywhere bullying occurs (i.e. everywhere).
1. Most People Ignore It
The most common response when observing bullying is to walk away. That is the bystander’s modus operandi. This is what bullies rely on – it is the secret to their success. Unfortunately the vast majority of us fit into the bystander category. When was the last time you saw bullying happen and did something about it?
2. Teachers (And Principals) Can’t Stop Bullying
If they could, they would have done it already. Adults can step in and stop bullying happening at a given moment. But what happens when they leave? The bullying starts back up again. Even if a victim of bullying reports it to their principal every day, it still won’t stop. Adults can’t be everywhere. However, the student body can. Bullying isn’t happening in a vacuum.
3. There Will Always Be Bullies
Trying to eradicate bullies is a fool’s quest. Anyone trying to teach kids to stop bullying is living in a dream world. This is human behaviour – we might be able to reduce it, but it’s not going anywhere. Some programs aim to “toughen up” those being bullied. I have no doubt that this can help. However, if you’re getting bullied because of who you are, all the coping strategies in the world aren’t going to help. Bullies pick on you if you’re the wrong colour, wrong size, or wrong . They target you if you’re from the wrong country, have the wrong sexual orientation, or have the wrong look. They’ll come after you if you have the wrong amount of money, the wrong address, or like the wrong things. You shouldn’t have to change these things. Period.
How To Stop It
Here is the secret recipe.
- Step 1: Activate the bystanders. Educate everyone in the building that to stop bullying they all need to choose action over inaction.
- Step 2: Explain the action-based options.
- Tell an adult (only useful when the specific incident needs to be stopped immediately – e.g. fist fight)
- Tell the bully to stop (this can be scary, so maybe take a friend)
- Help the person being bullied (being bullied is a lonely experience so ask them if they want to hang out, ask how you can help, or take them away from the situation)
- Step 3: Repeat
Get buy-in from the student body and your school will no longer have bullying. I promise. And when CNN (or Oprah) comes knocking on your door to ask how you did it, please remember to point them my way.
What are your thoughts? Tell me about your bully experiences.
Side Note: I’ve seen people say things to the effect of “kids are mean” in response to the recent stories of bullying. Kids aren’t mean. Kids learn from watching adults. So if you want to know how they’re learning to ignore injustices or how to be aggressive, hateful, and violent do some people watching.
Second Side Note: A quote from Desmond Tutu – “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Third Side Note: Please share this. I don’t often ask directly, but more people need to start trying to make changes in this area instead of complaining. And I’d really like to get on Oprah 🙂