You are not raising a bulldog for protection; you are raising a peaceful human being. Bullying is a problem. Psychologists have often speculated that bullies have low self-esteem, which is not the case. Recent studies have shown that its due to turbulent changes that require social hierarchies to develop. So often, bullies resort to a primal tendency to rely on dominance-related behavior in order to climb the social ladder. Psychologists also agreed that it’s a learned behavior –and that bullies can stop being bullies, and victims can also stop being victims. Since it’s a social problem, with a huge social impact, it must be tackled on all fronts, starting at home.
Understanding it requires us to go back in time to our school years, and look at events with new eyes. Bullying includes physical aggression to the spreading of nasty rumors and everything in between. It has been a big part of our break-time topics, and hence social dynamics. Bullies have been proven to generally have high self-esteem. Remember all the cool kids at school? Due to the fact that bullies have often climbed the social circle, they are viewed by fellow students, and even by teachers, not as pariahs, but as popular kids. In fact, some of the coolest kids at school. An alarming problem.
The social impact is huge. The shy kids who get picked on, for example, become even more withdrawn. When bullied, they respond submissively and become increasingly vulnerable. Eventually, they reach a point where they start showing traits and body language that suggests they are indeed a good target. The bigger, stronger kids create a social hierarchy and appoint themselves leaders. The bullies are clearly in charge. The gaining of power and status translate to a big-time ego boost and a learned behavior of knowing who to keep close and who to dominate for a sense of social security. It’s a mean, vicious cycle, but since its an adaptive mechanism to a certain environment, then it can be resolved.
The social dynamics are key. Since we understand the cause, we can try and change the environment that causes this –by thinking em pathetically. First, we need to identify our child’s social health and monitor red flags that suggest if they are bullies or victims. In the case they are bullies, we can channel this energy, by providing them with a sense of control and power, other than being mean to others. By giving them extra responsibilities and special roles that reward good leadership qualities, this will channel their energies more positively. In the case of victims, we need to help them realize that it’s not something about them that causes this. We need to make sure that they are not lonely, and are able to develop effective social skills. By monitoring their interests, we can help them build real social connections with groups that will give them a sense of security, purpose, and protection.
Bullying is not an individual problem, but a collective one. We have learned over the past ten years of research that these are temporary social roles, not permanent personality characteristics. So by becoming more aware of the dynamics as parents, we can be proactive. First, by affirming what constitutes good leadership at home. Second, we need to keep an open dialogue with our kids, making sure that they come to us in either case. Most importantly, be vocal about it; have an open dialogue with other parents and school teachers. Finally, teach our children what bullying is, the signs of bullying, and that its everyone’s responsibility to help stop it.
A flamboyant father of two and serial entre-
Preneur and founder of jumpsuite,and the
Wellness log .