Warning… this blog contains explicit language and adult concepts.
Here’s a thought. You’re a bully. Or you definitely were a bully. And I imagine you were bullied too. It could have been in the depths of a toddler sand pit war or the trenches of tragic high school life. But you have really hurt someone's feelings before. And you may have even left teeth marks too. The only difference between people is how they learnt from the experience. You either developed compassion, or you got off on the power trip and now resort to it daily. Or both? You may have just never reflected upon your actions enough to be sure.
So how the hell is the blanket policy of “Just say NO to BULLYING” going to work? Because we have just negated ourselves, our own children, our friends and our family. Who is happy with having their child labelled a ‘bully’. Are you happy with being called a ‘bully’? It seems everyone is being bullied…. but it is unclear who the actual bully is. And what have been the consequences of the policy? Children are no longer expelled, or suspended based on anti-discrimination policy looming in the back ground. So what exactly are the consequences after we have finished saying ‘no’?
Here’s another thought. By “just saying NO”, we are saying that victims are good, bullies are evil and life would be so much easier if we could just dress those baddies in black so we know where we stand. Problem is, we all think we are the goodies, that Yoda was our Uncle and that if Darth Vader came to town we would definitely clear our minds and chose the ‘force’. Bullshit. How old are we people?
And what happens when our kids enter the workforce, get directed to do something… and they just start saying ’no’! ‘No! You can’t make me do something, that is bullying!” What lessons (or what social handicaps) is this blanket policy of buck passing and watered down rhetoric creating for the long term productivity and mental resilience of our children?
I’ve been a terrible bully. When I was 13 I threw my best friend Melissa’s jumper down a hill to show Sandra Donnelly how tough I was. About 6 months later I pushed a really tall, quiet boy (Paul Denier) books off a two storey railing and spat water on them. Classy. I wince whenever I think about it. And I am so, so, so sorry and think less of myself and my actions more than anybody else could. I was an arse. I can still be an arse. I’m working on that.
I’ve been bullied too. This is probably because I was only 4 foot 2 inches until I was 15, had a remarkably flat chest and a rather interesting beak like Polish nose. Comments like ‘surf board’ and ‘tonker nose’ (i.e. like I had a stonker marble stuck up my nose, the poor lad didn’t have a very high IQ so the insult ‘tonker’ stuck) are not foreign to me.
Later in my working life I got called a “c..t” during in a Police debriefing because I went to the toilet after being deployed in a bus for 4 hours. I was rostered on three months of night work because I reminded a Senior Sergeant of the blonde that her ex-husband cheated with. When I was the only female in a 50 male strong specialist services raid on bikkies my supervisors apologised during the very public briefing that a female (i.e.: me) was rostered on, and they said they would try and change policy so it wouldn’t happen again.
Wah wah wah. Poor me. The lesson isn’t that someone should have protected me, or punished these people. The lesson is that these people where dealing with insecurities and perceived ideas of what they needed to do, be and say to look like they were in control. They just wanted to be a cool kid. Much like I did when I was 13. The lesson is in individual resilience, having a vocabulary to deal with these situations to achieve a satisfactory outcome and the ability to learn compassion for people’s feelings through your own experience. That means being able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. And this shouldn't be some special psychic gift. It should just be natural social progression.
And really, I’d be a pretty boring person if the greatest hardship I ever faced was the radical decision to wear tangerine lipstick with hot pink accessories, and if the butcher will have grain fed brisket when I go shopping this afternoon.
Bullying can take many forms: social exclusion, gossip, and any generic form of chest beating and with a good dash of ‘look at me, look at me!” (No don't look at her... look at me! Ask me how I'm feeling!)
So hasn’t Facebook provided a wonderful platform for people to showcase their many insecurities and ask for public acknowledgement, either passive aggressively or with a more high school form of pure verbal abuse. It’s lost the innocence of organising highs school reunion’s and telling really funny bodily function jokes, and is instead replaced by a more sinister undertone of “us” against “them”, good against evil, “I’m right and you are basically wrong… which therefore makes me better.” It’s a place where yoga teachers can promote inner peace, and personal message clients to stir up up gossip. People can hide behind power quotes about personal empowerment while self medicating with food addictions, eating disorders, alcohol and anti-depressants. And addictions to social media. There has be a pschyo-social term for that looming in Wikipedia.
We seem to be descending down a slippery slide where we can only feel good about ourselves if we get a ‘thumbs up’ and an all round cyber ‘like’, and no longer gain comfort with our own company, or a face to face chat.
When I teach my teens I always try to teach them that someone who insults you is usually holding up a mirror to their sub-conscious. So if they call you ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, ‘psycho’ you just got a little glimpse into their own self-hatred and what they have previously been called. Carl Jung and Freud might just have known what they where talking about when they studied human behaviour… Horrible people hate themselves more than you ever could. Or, the most difficult people may be narcissistic. With age these special little units get easier to pick – just look for the very special psychosis where they continuously blame the rest of the world for everything that befalls them and they demand you fix it: right now! Nothing you do or say will change a narcissist’s poor behaviour as they wail ‘poor me’, 'I'm so busy', 'I deserve so much more' and gaze lovingly at themselves in the still pond..... and take a snappy selfie.
Here’s another fact. You’re child is 10 more times likely to kill themselves then be killed in a car accident. But road safety receives 100 times more funding.
Unfortunately (or fortunately I believe) there is no Facebook in heaven. But most teenagers I deal with who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts fantasise about what their Facebook page will look like after they die, who will turn up to their funeral, and what people will tweet as their body is being interned. And most high schools have a policy of not mentioning the word ‘suicide’ because it encourages them to try it. WTF? I just saw an ad for Kentucky Fried popcorn chicken but I am sure as f—k not going to try it!
How the hell has this happened? How did our children’s self esteem become so de-evolved that they can no longer deal with the stresses of name calling? That suicide has become a cool option? That parents have become so incapable of face to face communication that they can no longer be a positive influence in their child’s self development and personal growth.
What’s the answer?If we are going to solve this problem let’s open the window and let in the light. The cold hard light of day… It’s refreshing isn't it? Let’s acknowledge we are both the problem and the solution and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Rather then expecting the rest of the world to solve our problems for us.
1. Get rid of this “Say NO to Bullying” crap. In fact, let’s stop even using the word ‘bully’ because the mere use of the word gives power to the idiots. It’s dualistic, watered down approach doesn’t work and is lip service to nothing.
2. Stop being the perfect parent/ teacher who did/ does nothing wrong. If adults don’t start having conversations with kids about how they have learnt from mistakes then we are encouraging a generation of kids that were made to feel ‘special’ but have no coping skills.
3. Teach kids to RESPOND rather then REACT. This is teaching kids how to read social situations and respond with acumen and manners. That might even mean getting rid of phones and computers.
4. Give our children a vocabulary to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. As they get older their vocabulary will expand (with good education and role models) and they will start to feel confident in letting their personality shine through when dealing with bad tempered morons.
4. Talk to kids about death and dying and its permanence.
5. Make kids feel important, but importantly, make them realise that they are not the centre of the universe. Bad things happen to good people.
6. Teach resilience. Be resilient. Embrace resilient role models.
7. You can’t hurt a person that has a deeper understanding of the fallible nature of hurtful people. Teach human nature. Knowledge is power. Understanding shall set you free.
8. Make kids realise that they are responsible for what they attract into their lives. They can be both the problem AND the solution. I love that concept.
9. Always teach solutions. Stress is always a lack of options. Options = solutions.
10. What happened to having it a good stoush, feeling better about being heard, and being friends again? Or just plain old choosing being nice over being right?
Let’s start having some serious consultation and some innovative education. When did we all get so afraid? This is not the legacy I want to leave my children.
If your childcare, school or high school is experiencing problems with aggressive children (and even parents) encourage your school principle to think about programs to sky rocket their kids and teachers to self resilience and confidence.
Something’s got to change. I’ll be your soft place to fall and protector all in one.