It’s easy to target bullying as the problem. After all, it is what is seen, what impacts people directly.
It’s like bleeding – you can see it and it makes a mess but unless you figure out what causes the bleeding, it won’t stop.
Bullying is like bleeding. It’s a symptom of something very wrong. You can see the bullying and its effect, but unless you address the real, underlying problem it won’t stop.
This is why intervention, short-term damage control, seems to be the universal band-aid. “What to do when bullying happens.” (And I have a nice pdf that outlines tips for the before-during-after process of bullying. You can pick that up here.). But bullying continues to happen; at the same rate with the same staggering results.
Single step solutions aren’t working. Gathering students in the gym for an anti-bullying pep talk isn’t slowing the bleeding. Indeed, there is research surfacing that indicates anti-bullying “programs” may actually be INCREASING bullying (that’s another upcoming blog). Stand alone professional development that offers a few hours of training for educators, parents, and community members only scratches the surface.
The proliferation of these drive-by attempts are why it is believed that bullying is here to stay. It’s been an issue since “we” were kids (which is always a looooong time ago) so it must not be something we can eliminate. It hasn’t gone away up to now, why do we think it can?
But it CAN! Through a willingness to step to the plate and shift our perspectives; by gaining skills and strategies that meet the needs of all people; by creating classrooms that are engaging and educational experiences that truly meet students where they are and take them to their potential…. that’s how bullying is eliminated in the classroom.
Developing a culture of equity and respect within an organization, providing tools and skills for people to reflect respect in themselves, others, and their environment, that’s how it is eliminated in businesses, education, communities, and families.
Yet, understanding, promoting, nurturing, and demanding respect and equity requires willingness and skills.
And work. Are we willing to do the work, make the shift, find new ways to make bullying the exception and not the rule?
As I pointed out a couple blogs ago, bullying is a behavior. That means bullying intervention is as “simple” as behavior modification. But that still only stops the bleeding for one individual. The damage has been done, the bleeding has begun. At best we can only hope to slow that bleeding, minimize the damage. That’s the problem with just intervention.
It is also true that bullying impacts more than just one individual. That means we have more than one bleeder. Once bullying happens, everything else is damage control. Children, as the brick and mortar of our future, can’t afford for us to allow the bleeding to BEGIN, let alone CONTINUE.
Those children grow up to become the adults that perpetuate bullying. That’s why it is so systemic. It grows by generations who lead by example.
It’s always a good question to ask “What example am I to those around me, to my children, co-workers, family, and friends?”
Self-reflection is the beginning of PREVENTION. Prevention is critical.
But what exactly are we preventing?
In order to prevent it, we have to look at why bullying happens.
So why does bullying happen?
Maybe it’s related to bullying as a system, something we each need to take responsibility for.
Mostly, even as a system, it’s related to how we interact with one another. It seems we need to learn and relearn what it means to be respectful.
Bullying is a symptom of disrespect.
As a result, we don’t want to just reflect the platitudes of respect. We need to feel and express a deep down respect of others that begins with respect for myself.
That doesn’t happen in a void. We have to teach one another what it means to be respectful. We have to remind one another why we are each worth respecting.
See, I don’t have to like you, agree with you, or even know you to be respectful.
I DO have to define what I mean by “respect.” (Check out my definition here.)
We all have to step to the plate, be willing to model respect in all we do –
- How we parent.
- How we do our job.
- How we play.
- How we shop.
- How we think/talk about ourselves.
- How we think/talk about others.
We have to be life long learners, willing to continually take on new skills and strategies, new ways to reflect respect. As employers, employees, as educators, parents, community members, and humans!
Are we willing to let one more child bleed to death over bullying? Are we willing to stand idle as one more co-worker is quietly bludgeoned in the grip of workplace harassment?
Or are we willing to make it stop?
The first step is to be respectful of myself and others; not because I like them or agree with what they do or even know them. Just because we are all in this together, because we are all human.
Can you do that?
I am willing and I can.
I look forward to your comments and responses.
Leah R. Kyaio