04 December 2013

The 800-pound bully

Elephants are not particularly known for bullying. We humans, unfortunately, are. Bullying among adults is the elephant in the room during any discussion about bullying among children, online or offline.

Take for example, Lisa Nielson's article, Addressing the #bullying problem starts with adults, in which she details a case of bullying that originates from what is supposed to be a friendly volleyball 'game' and includes most of the hallmarks of schoolyard bullying: admonishment, destructive criticism, over-competitiveness, exclusion, and isolation.

To draw a distinction between this and bullying among children would be pointless. They are the same.

The problem is worse in not necessarily friendly environments like the workplace. Perhaps it's worth a few moments to review the guide from PBS This Emotional Life, Adult bullying, to assess the climate where you are now.

Often, adult bullying is incredibly destructive. In the article, Adult Bullying: Harassment by People You Respect, a gang of mothers is described who took to Facebook to bash photos of other people's toddlers. This is behavior, I believe, that no student I have ever known would participate in. To call such choices immature is an insult to children.

It leads me to believe that children who bully might only be immitating behavior they have observed among adults. I recommend reading this article, Know BS: Say No to Adult Bulliesas good example of putting bullying in perspective and de-sensationalizing it. For even greater perspective, here's a post one of my students wrote earlier in the school year, Bullying.

When facing these issues with students, I take it as an opportunity to learn about themselves. I ask questions to help them define their own emotional, social, or even physical boundaries. And, of course, I help them to find strategies and techniques to defend themselves against bullies.

It's important for kids to know that they have our support. Most often, victims of bullying are isolated. Perhaps that's why elephants so vigilantly stay together in the face of danger or adversity.

"Bullying results in fear, for fear is the means by which all abusers, including bullies, disempower and control their victims." bullyonline.org

Empower the victims. Perhaps a program at your school like the Gracie BullyProof program would go a long way toward strengthening your community against bullying! Whether victims choose to ignore, fight back, or anything in between, should ultimately be up to them.