My puppy sits on the lounge and watches television. When any animal comes on (I now think it may be when he wants a cuddle), he barks and does a little dance. This morning, Queensland’s Premier, Anastasia Palaszuck (spelt wrong – sorry), was on television demanding a national plan for bullying to be stopped in schools in the wake of Dolly’s suicide as a result of ongoing bullying.
I’m a big fan of bullying being outlawed. But, I’m not an idiot. This is way too simplistic an idea. It will not work. For so many reasons.
Bullying has existed for a long time. A long time. Not just in schools, but in workplaces and homes amongst adults first and foremost.
Bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power. It stems from the ego governing the choices of a human. That ego is often fed by a deep insecurity and fear that the person has no power themselves. The person addresses this by exerting power over another. When this happens, repeatedly, to the same person, we call it bullying.
Until our society works on healing the damaged adults who model this behavior, and we call systems to account (like institutions whose policies mandate bullying behavior), bullying amongst children in schools will continue.
However, we can attempt to mitigate the impact of bullying by strengthening the resilience of children and, case by case, responsibly dealing with early incidents of bullying. This, too, requires that egos be checked at the door.
By ego, I am referring to the part of our psyche that tells us we aren’t good enough or that something is our fault (this ego operates from a lack position), and so we become aggressive and single minded when we try to bring a situation back to balance (impossible, where the ego is concerned, because it needs to win to be satisfied).
Bullying is not okay. Not ever. Not between adults, not between kids, not towards animals.
It will continue to happen whilst ever our society runs on the adrenaline of ego, whilst ever one person has more power than another (and uses it to further their own desires), and whilst ever power structures form the foundation of every organization, including government.
So, dealing with bullying. I am often charged with handling a bullying situation at school. This often occurs at an early point because I don’t tolerate kids saying mean things to one another or being mean to one another.
In fact, in my classroom I maintain strict expectations for how we treat each other during the learning process. I expect students to respond to questions, to ask questions and to make mistakes freely ( we learn more from mistakes than getting things right). I create a safe environment for this to happen, to empower my students to learn.
I warn my students that no one will laugh at someone else without serious consequences. They only ever need one example of someone being minimized and me reacting to know that I am true to my word.
Whatever people think of my strategies, they work. Kids feel safe with me and they learn. I pride myself (bloody ego) on creating a safe learning environment for my kids. This extends beyond the classroom walls.
I am regarded by some as a bitch. I don’t care. Students in my classes regard me as fair and only a bitch if I catch you doing something you shouldn’t. I have had many kids referred to me by ex students who say, Go see Meyer. She’ll deal with it. Yes, yes I will. Every child deserves to feel and to be safe at school.
I will share my process. This is a general summary. Every situation is different and might require some tweaking, but this is it basically.
I speak to both kids individually. I try to work out what has happened and why it has happened. From both sides. Why is the bully needing the power and why is the victim willing to sacrifice their’s.
Before you jump, I have been bullied. In each case, I need to work out for myself, why I sacrificed my power. It’s a hard conversation to have with yourself because we lie to make ourselves feel better. I encourage the kids to be honest with themselves, and with me, so that we can resolve the core issues.
Often, bullying isn’t about either child, it is about the feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness – on both sides. These need to be resolved so that the bullying does not continue.
I will then often sit the kids together and I mediate a conversation, a sharing of how each child feels and the real reasons as to why. The kids start to see their same-ness rather than their difference. I do a lot of the talking in this mediation until the kids feel safe with being honest. It usually results in a lot of tears (from me too – nothing more beautiful than kids seeing each other as equals after pain and seeing a way out) and resolution.
Very rarely have their been repeat offenses. And, if there are, I become a bully to the bully. Not nice, but effective.
The core issues are integral to solutions. They are often ignored in the resolution of bullying incidences. There is too much blame and too much anger and too much a need to be right rather than happy. Us adults model this poor behavior all of the time. We need to model our authentic selves rather than our masked selves.
Realistically, the solution to bullying relies on us adults being honest with ourselves. The bandaid solutions that will filter down from government are bullshit. They will achieve nothing. Us adults needs to be empowered to be our best selves. Only then will we empower our kids to be their best selves. Only then.