When one of my students got asked the question “Do you think bullies ever feel the bad for what they do?” He gave a response so full of meaning that I knew he had suffered at the hands of a bully before. He said, “Maybe, but they not as bad as the pain the person they bullied feels.” Though he struggled to get his words out right, I knew his meaning. My response? “Good point. But do you think it might be possible that the person doing the bullying might also be feeling pain that we’re not even aware of?” Do I expect him to reach out to a bully any time soon? Not really. His experience is probably deep and painful. Empathizing with bullies is difficult for people who haven’t been victimized.
Most people don’t really think about bullies as people. Once we label them as bullies, we pour the hate on as a society. I’ve actually seen some pretty horrible messages put out there on social media toward bullies after some bullying incidents happen. I’ll admit that it’s difficult to pour the love on someone who does horrible things to another human being, but do we really need to spread more hatred? You have only to look at the responses to this young 8th grader’s well-written essay on Huffington Post and then the follow-up comments written by others suggesting how he deal with his bullies to see how people think about bullies.
I’ll highlight some of the real gems:
“Bullies usually respond well to broken bones.”
“The only language a cowardly bully understands is a shot to the head. So fight back in his language.”
“Bullying is nothing new and we know how to stop it. All of this searching for creative solutions is crap. He needs to identify the bullies, and whenever he finds one of them alone, lay a beating on them. Whenever he is poked or struck he needs to go ballistic on them.”
Well, these comments show a clear lack of understanding of how people become aggressive bullies in the first place. According to an article by Psychology Today entitled Big Bad Bully, the way a child becomes an aggressive bully is likely the result of inconsistent parenting, followed by the child’s high emotional reactivity, which leads to the parent becoming more physical with discipline. As the parents become more physical in punishment in response to the child’s aggressive behavior, it teaches the child to become even more aggressive. Instead of these children feeling closer to their parents and receiving more love, comfort, hugs, and kisses, they just receive more discipline. According to Psychology Today, instead of learning to ask for things, these children have slowed language development, and they just take what they want.
Bullying is a way to demonstrate power, but to teach our children that aggression equals power is a mistake. For either side to win, we need to realize that preaching more violence doesn’t help anyone. Despite what society believes, these children probably get enough physical punishment at home and not nearly enough love.
[ctt tweet=”Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right. End the bullying cycle. http://ctt.ec/1azbe+ #Bullying #1000speak @embracespectrum” coverup=”1azbe”]
What can we do?
Advice For Victims:
- Avoidance. Just walk away. I know it sounds lame and not what you want to hear, but it’s an appropriate adaptive skill when someone tries to hurt you to get out-of-the-way. Since when does standing there and getting hurt help anyone?
- Deflect with humor. Do you tell good jokes? If you can do it without making the bully angry, go for it! “Do you really have time for this? You might be late for school…”
- Be assertive. Tell the bully to leave you alone. “Mind you own business. Get a life.” And just walk away. This would work better for girls than boys.
- Make other friends. Focus on your healthy friendships and build them up. Soon the bullies won’t even matter.
Advice For Parents:
- Build Confidence in Your Child. If you do, you’ll help your child be more assertive in bullying situations.
- Tell your child that it’s not okay to bully. Bullying a bully does not help.
- Talk to your child every day. Make it easier for your child to divulge anything that might be happening at school.
- Watch your own behavior. Your children model what they see, so make sure you model positive social relationships.
- Increase chances for social relationship-building. Allow your children to invite children over, join clubs, etc.
- Teach empathy. Help your child see how other people feel in various situations. Always make them say “sorry” when they do wrong.
- Talk to the school – make sure the school is away of what’s going on. Make sure the school is a bully free zone. Involve administration if necessary to keep your child safe.
As a teacher, I work with bullies and victims every day. Both bullies and victims need friends, from what I see. While I see the victims make friends every day, it’s the bullies that still struggle. While some may say this as justice, I feel sad for them and society, knowing that the bullying will only continue because they feel “less than” their peers. They will seek attention by any means possible. I’ve heard their parents say that they “don’t give a crap about anyone” and I’ve sat with these same kids and seen them express feelings their parents never knew they had about them. Love. Feelings of remorse. Sentiments like, “I’d die to protect my family,” have come from the same kid whose parents feel he only cares about himself, that he’s lazy, and that he’d hurt someone without thinking twice. He cares, but he lacks the ability to show them. We should think about how difficult it might be for these kids with difficult temperaments growing up in homes where all this negativity comes out at them all day.
So, yes, we do need to send a message that bullying is wrong and we should treat everyone with kindness, but please use kindness in your words when speaking about bullying. The words most often used in my classroom are “two wrongs do not make a right.” You do not get to hurt someone just because they hurt you. End the cycle.