“Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates superheroes. It’s a rare occurrence and often does much more damage than endowment.”
― Zack W. Van
“If you wear that to school, you deserve to get beaten up!”
“Listening to that kind of music, you’re gonna get yourself beaten up when you get to the playground.”
“If you’re gonna cry like a baby, the kids are gonna wear you out, and they should!”
Every day, parents are teaching their kids to be afraid of being themselves. Every day, people are being taught to hate people who are not like they are, to dominate people who are weaker than they are, and to punish people who dare to express how they feel or think. Unlike the wild animals in the fields and the birds in the air, civilized people choose barbaric actions to show their own worth. Those school-aged bullies don’t magically disappear when they get older–they simply learn to be more cunning in their approach. I’ve loved a lot of bullies, and I’m sure you have, too. From thinking we can save them to excusing them, we do nothing to help them if we allow their actions to continue. As Van points out, if you think putting up with a bully builds character in a person, you are wrong.
With so much focus on kids who bully, we often overlook or don’t consider the adults who bully. Adults bully. In fact, we have probably bullied without realizing it when we’ve made fun of someone’s size, smell, vehicle, or bad grammar, stretching the definition just a bit. Does someone use their position to intimidate you? They are a bully. Does someone use their stature, figuratively or literally, to keep you beneath them? They are a bully. We make excuses: he just hasn’t learned that you don’t treat someone that way or she has to be more assertive or they’ll run all over her. Maybe both cases are true, but when our words or actions are really just our way of pointing out someone else’s inadequacies, we are bullying people. It happens every day, and the only way it stops is to begin to make intentional choices in our thinking, speech, and actions.
Not every kid who is bullying kids at school is the victim of bullying at home or somewhere else, but when we see it in children it should be addressed quickly. “Intervene with the parents, peers and schools simultaneously. Behavioral parent training could be used in the home while building good peer relationship and problem-solving skills could be offered in the schools, along with academic help for those having troubling in this area,” says Clayton R. Cook, PhD, of Louisiana State University. When our only reaction is to chide a bully for being mean, we miss the opportunity to change how they will behave going forward.
More importantly, in my opinion, is the attitude we adults have about bullying. As the opening sentences remind us, adults (parents) say things as if it makes bullying ok, and they often do that because they have continued that behavior in their own lives with their children, their husband or wife, co-workers or employees. There is no report you can show me that would make me believe that belittling and intimidating other people is healthy. When I hear of another kid who never told about being bullied, instead choosing to end his or her own life, when I hear of women and men who have been living secretly in abusive relationships which often end badly, I know that the real problem isn’t about what is happening with the kids.
Today, think about every statement you make. Is it really humor or bullying? Establishing your authority or bullying? It doesn’t begin with the kids, it begins with you and with me. Bullying people does not build character in anyone, so stop pretending that it does.