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Bullying, the Beginning of Violence – Part 1

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Examine the facts about bullying: Each day 160,000+ students skip school because of bullying.

At the recent workshop on Parenting Skills “Upgrade” we discussed how life has changed and how things are more stressful for all of us including children. A common theme I’m beginning to see is the need for us to upgrade our understanding of how stress takes us out of relationship with ourselves and others. How the traumatizers not only traumatize others but themselves. We have gotten into negative neurophysiological feedback loops within ourselves and each other.

In the next two newsletters, I want to “upgrade” your understanding of the issue of Bullying because it reflects the tip of the iceberg of violent behavior that can only be shifted through understanding that what is driving the behavior we see is what is beneath the iceberg.  We have the ways and means to turn things around; all we need to add is a willingness to join the path others are leading.

Beginning with ourselves we need to awaken to and tame what hides within ready to spring out on others. Children reflect what they have learned and are learning from the adult world whether from parents, teachers, the media, religious and other organizations. We can’t expect our children to do better than we are doing. Yet that is what we continue to do. We continue to have a punitive mentality when it comes to mistakes children make as a natural course of being a child.

We expect children to think and act like adults. I’m not so sure when it comes to the issue of bullying that they are not doing that. We have workplace violence, domestic violence, and world-wide violence against women and girls because they are female. The value and history of women is still not given a proper place even with organizations like the National Women’s History Project.

I recently watched the movie Bully and read the companion book. The movie released in April, 2012 is a documentary that began in 2009 after much research by Director Lee Hirsch and Producer Cynthia Lowen. They decided that in order to fully capture the reality of this issue, they would need to be able to get on the front lines. This meant finding a school that would be willing to allow them to film what went on in the student body for an entire academic year, not an easy task. The Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Wash., is run by Gary and Ruth Namie, who are dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying. They had recently published the first study of the incidences of workplace bullying funded by The Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention based in Sioux City, Iowa. The executive director of WIVP, Cindy Waitt, introduced Hirsch and Lowen to Sioux City Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman, and they subsequently received permission from the Sioux City Community School Board to film throughout the school district for the 2009-2010 school year: a very courageous move on their part.

Bully puts a human face on the impact of this issue in the lives of real people, in real situations. Our beliefs about bullying have determined what we have done (or not done) about addressing this issue in schools and communities across our great land and, as with many other 21st century issues, need an “upgrade.” It will take all of us working together to make a difference in bullying. We need to move past our legitimate feelings of blame and focus on finding solutions. We need to move beyond what we have believed about bullying and upgrade our awareness. Until then, we can’t change what we won’t face.

What is it we need to face? As difficult as it is we need to connect our statistics with our humanity. Here are a few facts about bullying:

1. Every day more than 160,000 students skip school because they are afraid of being bullied.
2. Per the FBI the third most common location nationwide for a hate crime to occur is on a school or college campus.
3. 300,000 students each month are physically attacked inside their secondary schools.
4. 43% of kids are cyberbullied; while 53% admit to saying something mean and hurtful to another child online.
5. Every day 60% of students with learning and other disabilities are bullied as compared with 25% of all students. 
6. Each year more than 13 million children are teased, taunted and physically assaulted by their peers out of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism or meanness to assert social power. Some to the point of suicide and violence on others.
7. Attempts such as engaging bullies and victims in peer mediation, punishing bullies, telling children to ignore the bullying or telling them to work things out on their own, inserting a few bullying prevention lessons in the curriculum, or adopting an antibullying policy without necessary supports ARE NOT effective and not likely to lead to a lasting impact.

Bullying isn’t a ‘kids will be kids’ problem; a parent problem, a school problem, a community problem, or a societal problem; it is a problem for all of us and it needs to be addressed on multiple levels, beginning within each adult first.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.

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