04 March 2016

Bullying: A Missing Component

All our adult lives, we as parents, teachers, counselors, administrators… all of us adults have been trying to end bullying for our children. We remember what we witnessed or experienced as children ourselves. For at least forty years (from my own childhood being bullied to today, dealing with my own child’s experiences), grownups have been talking about and working to address bullying. Yet, it’s not going away. It doesn’t even seem to getting any better. If anything, the advent of social media seems to have made it so much worse. Why? Why haven’t any of our worthy, hard-fought efforts been working?

I think there’s a missing component in our adult efforts to deal with bullying. We talk to kids. We talk about kids. We want them to report bullying. We want them to talk to us about bullying. As parents, we’d do anything to save our own kids from the bullying we experienced or witnessed growing up. But, our kids won’t talk to us, just like we didn’t talk to our parents. Often, the kids themselves don’t even realize they may be the bullies. Kids don’t want to report bullying. Part of the bullying culture is the intimidation that keeps victims and witnesses silent.

The kids are the missing component. 

We need to get the kids talking to each other. I’ve come to believe we need to create a safe-space, student-led outreach; we need to add this missing component to all our other worthy efforts. We need to give our kids something like a social club in every school, led by the students, but moderated by the school counselor. It should be a place where the kids do not name names… a place where they can talk about the bullying they witness as well as the bullying they experience — without the adult push to report it. We have to get the kids thinking about their own place in the social environment that fosters bullying and how they can and must be the engines of change — but we have to let them discover that path for themselves. We have to empower our kids to be the ones to challenge the social injustices of the bullying culture in their own corner of the world.