Interestingly enough, just a few days later my son and I were again playing – this time at a water park. As I was sitting on the bench enjoying watching him run through the water with glee, my ears perked up to hear a woman yelling at a child – an Indian boy who couldn’t be older than 10. Although I missed exactly what happened, this young mom took full liberty to aggressively berate and correct him for what appeared to be stealing the grounded water pistol from her 3 year old daughter. He didn’t seem like an aggressive child, yet under the guise of yelling, “give it back to her – she’s just three years old,” she proceeded to harshly demand him to “get away from here, leave her alone”. Her tone of voice and body language were rude, dominating, and just plain mean. Her motivation was to give her child first place at that pistol, yet her behavior and actions were second class trash. She modelled everything but encouragement and consideration – which I believe was at the core of her intention: to see her child to enjoy the park in peace and joy – just like my son. Yet somehow in the process, by default she felt she had to bulldoze this poor kid down. It made me wonder what happened to her that she felt she had to respond that way.
To correct or discipline a child and guide them elsewhere is one thing – but this woman was a bully. What was really sad was that I was one of many adults within view of this happening – and we were all stunned into doing and saying nothing – After all, someone volatile like this could turn on us… at least that’s what I thought.
What bothers me the most is that these were adults modelling the behaviour. They breed that bullying is okay.
Fact: A bully’s desire (conscious or unconscious) is to impose domination over someone. Intimidate someone. Gain power over someone. It is not just relational, it can be verbal, physical. It happens online all the time. The impact can be physical harm. But it is always emotionally painful and can leave a lifetime of psychological consequences.
So how can we best respond? Whether you are the recipient of the bullying or the innocent bystander watching it happen, we each have a role to play in teaching our kids (and other adults) what is right. If I is an adult am stunned, what does this do to a child? How can we make an impact in what seems like whatever we do might not matter? The truth is bullies won’t stop pushing people around… and the spirit of a child has to know how to stay standing strong though the blows that come.
Going Deeper: Think back to a situation when you were bullied. How did you respond to it? How did it make you feel? Did you get help or talk about it? Was there someone in early years who made an impact on you in building you up? How did it create resiliency in you? Can you remember how that felt?
Although it is hard to find anything accurate, this gives you an idea. Ask for the stats in your school or district.
Geared for US educators