How We Can Stop School Bullying
School bullying, harassment and social boycotts are phenomena that unfortunately are getting worse all the time.
A recent UN report on school bullying and violence says that globally, one in three children experiences school bullying, and a similar proportion are affected by physical violence.
Though the amount of physical violence may not have increased over the years, the extent of harassment has worsened, with Cyberbullying becoming a growing problem.
When I was growing up, kids would ostracize someone and make them miserable no doubt. But today it is no longer necessary to be at school in order to make someone feel that they are unwanted or that they don’t belong.
Social media is enabling bullies to continue to extract joy at the suffering of their chosen victim at any time of day, and the emotional abuse is becoming even more unbearable.
What we know of these daily tragedies is only the tip of the iceberg.
Unfortunately, parents, school staff and authorities are mostly helpless and unable to deal with these events. At times the harassment takes place for years without being stopped.
This is a reality that must be changed.
To treat this problem from the root, we have to take a good look at where it’s coming from.
Cultural Influences that Lead to School Bullying
First, we have to acknowledge that individualistic trends, narcissism and a “me first” attitude is growing, especially in the younger generations.
San Diego State psychologist Jean Twenge says there’s ample evidence to show that we’re living in a culture of escalating narcissism.
Dr. Twenge has outlined this claim in two books, first in 2006 with Generation Me and again in 2010 with The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.
Parenting trends are also to blame, as research shows that narcissists often had parents who were overly permissive and put their child on a pedestal.
However, these parenting trends are but a reflection of a “selfie” obsessedindividualistic culture that puts an emphasis on self-promotion and competition.
Parallel to this rise in narcissism, we are also seeing that empathy is on a concerning decline.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for children to have consideration for others. They simply can’t feel what others feel. They only sense how much benefit they can extort.
The rise in narcissism combined with a decrease in empathy is directly linked to bullying and aggression in schools.
Of this Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University, said: “I’ve been studying aggression for about 30 years, and I’ve seen that the most harmful belief that a person can have is that they’re superior to others…”
“that men are better than women, my race is better than your race, my religion is superior to your religion. When people believe they’re better than other people, they act accordingly.”
In such an atmosphere, children, and especially those with leadership potential, are more prone to using their power in a negative way.
Smaller children don’t even consider whether this is wrong or right, these are their inner impulses.
An inflated ego simply seeks to belittle others, to gain pleasure from another’s inferiority.
A good way to influence your kids’ values and create a strong bond with them is by having regular family discussions with positive communication rules. Get the instructions below, in this free printable!
Practical Steps to Treat School Bullying
The immediate steps that must be taken in order to treat this problem, is firstly to understand that there are two types of people: Leaders and followers.
What we often see happening is that a child or adolescent will harass another, and use their leadership abilities and social power to pit other kids against them too.
Since very often children will not listen to reason, we need to “speak their language”. We need to make them sense what they stand to lose by bullying and empower their followers to leave them if they do so.
Here are some practical steps:
1. Deal with leaders in a number of ways. First, explain the great misfortune they are causing themselves and others. The consequences of their actions must be brought to their awareness. They need to be shown the pain they are causing and reminded that they too may be at the mercy of others one day. Their current behavior is bound to have consequences. It’s also good to make them aware that although they have natural leadership potential, they need to be good leaders if they want kids to keep following them. Otherwise, their follower will easily leave them for someone else.
2. Identify more leader types and empower them to counter the bad leader’s authority. Every classroom should contain more than one leader to create balance and break the hegemony. This way followers will have better alternatives to choose from.
3. Finally, empower followers so that they won’t obey any leader blindly. They need to know that they have power too, to choose their actions and to speak against anything they think is out of line.
Stopping Bullying at Schools Depends on Us All
These actions can work to a certain extent. But the real problem is that we the adults are far behind in providing children with the right examples.
Eddie Brummelman, a post-doctoral researcher at Holland’s University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University, advised that to curb narcissism “we can develop a way to help parents convey affection and appreciation for a child without necessarily putting a child on a pedestal, without telling the child he is better than others”.
Indeed we need such training to help us relate to our kids in a healthier way, but also to change ourselves.
We adults create the environment that our kids grow up in.
With egoism growing everywhere, pride, boasting, and arguments for the sake of being superior to others, all over our media and the internet, we as a society are hardly good role models.
Instances of people believing that they are “better than”, or lack of empathy and acceptance of others’ differences are prevalent.
If we cannot achieve healthy, caring relations between us- then what can we expect from kids?
Therefore, the cultural rise in narcissism and drop in empathy is something we adults must deal with on many levels.
“Trying to instill more of a collective sense of humility and altruism as opposed to self-promotion might go a long way towards achieving better mental health for would-be narcissists as well as America as a whole,” says Joseph M. Pierre, a Health Sciences Clinical Professor at UCLA.
We can do that by giving positive examples for compromise in the media,learning the techniques to mitigate the divisive effects of politics, and making relevant training more publicly available.
Relationships skills, parenting courses, and discussion circles that teach listening, compassion and connection above differences, are vital for our societies.
When we as a society learn how to balance the negative forces of our nature with positive efforts for empathy and connection, we will know how to teach our kids to do the same.
What are your thoughts? Would love to hear them, down in the comments!