Missing the Mark with the Anti-Bullying Campaign

Hear me out…. I have some thoughts on bullying. The next couple of posts will be about different aspects of bullying and, like usual, I have some controversial thoughts. Now, I am not saying that I think bullying is a good thing, but like so many things in this world, I don’t think we are taking the right approach to dealing with the problem.

The anti-bullying campaign focuses single-mindedly on stopping bullying from occurring in the first place, in an ideal world this would be great, but (surprise!) we don’t live in an ideal world. In an attempt to eradicate bullying we are forgetting to build up resilience in children, which results in adults who are not resilient.
While we all know and accept that the old adage of, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” just isn’t true – because names can sometimes dig deeper than any dagger – there is something to it. We have gotten too far away from this idea, children are now taught that being called names should hurt, should traumatize, and should cause harm. Some anti-bullying literature suggests that calling someone names will cause harm; this just simply isn’t true, it may cause harm and that is a good enough reason not to do it.
So while I do think we should be actively trying to reduce bullying we should also be trying to increase the resilience of children. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I won’t let you names hurt me.” Increasing the confidence and self-esteem of children (and adults) will let them more easily brush off being called names.

The definition of bullying seems to often be misinterpreted these days. Bullying must be deliberate, kids will be kids, they often do not have the cognitive capabilities to understand the consequences of their behaviour. Note, that I am talking about subtle acts of social rejection, gossip, pranks, etc. not overt behaviours such as physical bullying.
On top of this, people are going to experience social rejection. Not everyone is obligated to like you or be nice to you – yes, people should be civil and respectful, but that can be a long way from nice.

I vehemently disagree with school policies that state that kids must share with everyone, or must invite the whole class to their birthday party. Nope, hard pass…. if my kiddo doesn’t like someone they aren’t obligated to give that kid a fucking valentine day card. These kind of policies just put a band-aid on the problem and stop children from learning valuable social skills.
Yes, maybe a kid cries because he didn’t get any birthday party invites. Well, it is a good opportunity to dissect why. Is this child mean to others – a bully perhaps? Is he just weird – do we need to work on reading social cues? Does he come from a different culture that the other kids just don’t understand? Does this child come from a different socioeconomic class than the other children?
Some of the reasons may be simple, and easy to remedy. Others may be the basis of bullying now or in the future (cultural differences, socioeconomic differences). In some cases it may be a learning opportunity for others; for example, if it is cultural differences that child could invite some classmates and their families to a festival/event, or bring in a some food to share.
Preventing these things from occurring stops learning for both the individual and the group, and does absolutely nothing to prevent bullying in the long term.


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