Anti-Bullying Week directs attention to the issues associated with bullying. Bullying is a significant problem which exists everywhere in our society: from board rooms, to office workplaces, to motorists on roadways, to shopping malls, sports fields, to children in schools, etc., and is even prevalent within some families. Bullying directed towards another person or groups of people, can occur in the form of manipulation, intimidation, teasing, gossip, insults, and exclusion. These can also be evident in cyber-bullying.

Bullying incidents usually result from fears and insecurities, or the need for power and and control, or can be a misguided attempt at leadership. Helping children understand the differences between leadership based on intimidation and coercion, and leadership based on empowerment, helps ‘the followers’ to better understand their role and choices when supporting a particular leader. Are they there because they choose to be, or because they do not want to be the one being excluded, teased or perhaps worse?

When the root motivations to bully are understood, clarified, and addressed, the bullying generally ceases. Bullies often have issues of poor self-esteem, and putting others down makes them feel more powerful. It can also be a cry for help from the bully as they may be having  troubles themselves and need support. Bullying behaviour also can reflect poor adult role models at home, physical or mental abuse, real or imagined fears, lack of sleep, and even poor nutrition. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds!

Victims of bullying also need to better understand their role when being picked on. They benefit from developing strategies such as: using stronger words of empowerment, and improved body language. Sometimes being the victim can be a form of self-abuse, i.e. putting oneself into situations that beg for trouble. With support and through role-playing practices, the individual can develop their own tools of empowerment, of greater self-confidence in their own unique talents, and start to set firm boundaries for themselves for what is acceptable. They develop greater confidence to stand their ground when someone crosses the boundary into their space.

Parents and teachers quite often discover that a good number of children experience difficulty discriminating differences and changes in facial expressions and body language, or do not understand the feeling of empathy towards others. This can be apparent in either the bully or the victim, and can be the underlying cause of misunderstandings and conflicts. Visual based therapies, role-playing, and counseling can be very helpful in these circumstances to expand one`s awareness and responses.

Followers of a bully, and bystanders, also need to understand their role and responsibility. Followers must realize that silence ‘is agreement’ and that they are really not being passive in their bystander role. They are actually making a choice to be a follower. Not making a choice to do something is still a choice. We need to congratulate the ‘reluctant leader’ who steps up to solve a problem or conflict when no one else is able or willing to do so.

It is critical that we treat each other with dignity and respect, and for adults to model this behaviour so our children will, in turn, model the same towards others.      (Mississauga News 11/19/2010)

Linda Sweet M.S. Ed.

Founder and Director, Glenburnie School

Pre-School to Grade 8

Providing a progressive and innovative private school education