Bully, Bullying, Relational Aggression, Lateral Violence, Gossip. Bullying has become a household word. We hear it on the radio, see it in the papers. The effects of bullying. Is it losing its meaning? Its impact? Does it get overused? The results are sad and hurt feelings at best, isolation, violence and suicide at its worst. How do we teach our children to stand up for themselves and stand up for others? If we can teach our kids how to firmly let others know that their behaviour is not okay, will their workplaces be free(er) of lateral violence and gossip when they are older? Can we take this commitment on for ourselves?
Fear, Intimidation, Power, Isolation, Shame. These are the results of bullying. It may not be out there in full view. Much of the time it isn’t on the forefront of the perpetrator’s mind. The result however is that a person who is ridiculed, shunned, gossiped about or shamed by their peers will feel confused, badly about themselves, they will second guess themselves, they will feel unsure of their actions. They will feel lonely.
Support, Caring, Joining, Fun, Standing up.
It takes one person to stand up and say ‘that’s not okay’ for bullying to have less of an impact.
One person who hears you, sees you for the beautiful person you are, comments on your awesome shoes, tells you they appreciate you, saves you a seat, goes out of their way to find you at recess. It may not always be safe to stand up in the moment. As a bystander, can you walk away and find someone to help? Ideally someone who won’t use power and fear to stop the situation!
Play a game that goes like this: ask your friends, family, extended family to give you a word that describes you; ask your teacher, the librarian, your friend’s mom or dad – write a poem with the words you hear. This is you.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Break out of the crowd and stand next to the person who is being embarrassed or threatened. If you didn’t stand up, go see that person and admit you were too scared to do anything about it, apologise and make a time to play with them. This also means – don’t turn around and shame the person who is choosing to bully. Can you find some compassion for the child/adult who uses these methods of persuasion and ways of being popular or getting attention? If people in power use their power to force changes in behaviour ….. kinda sounds like bullying, doesn’t it? Can we see relational aggression as a learned behaviour and not as an inherent part of a person’s personality? To label someone as a bully defines their whole being as such. If we can see it as a behaviour, in that moment a person chose bullying or intimidating behaviour we can then open the door and invite a change in behaviour. Behaviour, even bullying behaviour is not permanent, people can chose to change it (but sometimes they need help, or they need to see other ways of being as being rewarding). You can let them know that what they are doing is not okay – this doesn’t mean that they are all bad!
It’s not you.
Bullying says more about the person who uses that behaviour than it does about you. Why are they so angry/sad/upset/feeling powerless that they feel the need to take it out on you? What do they get from your feeling badly? If we think of a person’s behaviour in that way, does it make it easier to walk away?
This is, by all means, not a full account of the effects of relational aggression or threatening behaviour. It happens, to girls, boys, adults in the workplace, adults at home. There’s help. See your school counsellor, your teacher, a safe adult in your school or in your life. Keep talking to people about it until someone helps you. Find positive ways to stand up for yourself and for your friends.