I could not find the time to post about last Sunday’s Anderson Cooper’s “Bullying It Stops Here” until now. We still deal with the aftereffects of bullying everyday at my house. Yet, I hear how surprised people are about the study done by University of California sociologist, Dr. Robert Faris. Some have even called it groundbreaking. I laughed when I heard this and then I screamed at the television.
Does anyone ever listen to the parents of children who have been victims of bullying or to the victims themselves? The only new thing I got out of the whole show is a new term, “social combat.” I have been referring to it as the “mean girl” syndrome in our case. A syndrome that ironically began after the girls watched, “Mean Girls,” the movie inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabes.
I know the book was not intended to have this effect, but in our case it did. I do believe Rosalind Wiseman’s other books including, Owning Up Curriculum: Empowering Adolescents to Confront Social Cruelty, Bullying, and Injustice, are more helpful and I do like how she now realizes the importance of the bystander’s and the teacher’s involvement in combatting bullying. I just think we need to go further than that if we really want to end the problem.
Overall the study did not take some things into account. For instance I paused the video when they showed the survey questions the kids answered. Every child had a chance to identify someone who had been mean to them by student ID number and by initials. Now I know for a fact that the bullies identified my daughter as the mean one even though she was not. They even convinced others that she was mean. She was merely responding to the way they treated her. That is not meanness; that is self-preservation. These are two very different things. That is not to say that there are not children who are both victim and bully, but I would argue that this needs further investigation instead of taking it at face value in every case.
It is important to note that you cannot decide to put the victim and the bully in arbitration until you help the victim to heal and become empowered, and you cannot decide that they both need social skills training either which is what Dr. Phil suggested. They both need help, but social skills are not what the bullies lack. They lack kindness, empathy and in some cases humility.
They overlooked other things too. They focused on “social combat” and bullying as it related to gay or perceived to be gay students at a school where the district has banned the term so that the victims cannot report the bullying without getting in trouble themselves; however, they missed other groups of victims. Basically any difference even medical health issues like allergies, diabetes, cerebral palsy and cancer, as well as those with learning disabilities, or any diagnosis are often victims of bullying to some degree.
I think it is also important to educate teachers about how their own choice of words and/ or the way they talk to their students can set some children up for bullying. They need to understand the long-term effects of bullying too. Again, I am speaking from my family’s experience regarding this. You can read more about this in my previous post, Teachers Please Inspire and Support Our Children « Delightfully Different Life.
People who believe bullying is no worse than it was in previous generations confound me. I strongly disagree and believe me I do know that many of my generation still carry scars of bullying. The biggest difference is society’s apathy about the bullying, leaving many of these children feeling they have nowhere to turn for help. My parents would never have allowed my brothers or me to be so blatantly mean, yet some parents today turn a blind eye, or are in denial. Add in the Internet, cell phones, and game consoles that too few learn to use responsibly and you have a recipe for disaster. Thus, the increase in suicides.
I am grateful that more light is shinning on this issue and I do hope more people are paying attention. I also hope I will have more opportunities to educate others about ways to help with this cause. Today I am grateful for every step in this direction no matter how small, and I am especially grateful that I got a chance today. You can view it here: Keiki Talk – anti-bullying book. Thanks again Olena!