I've been mulling this post over in my mind for quite some time and have not been sure how to approach this particular topic in a sensitive way while also getting my point across. I guess the best solution is to dive in headfirst and see how it goes.
I know that "Bullying" is the new cause that everyone is getting behind right now. It's the "Just say no" of this decade known as "It gets better". Celebrities, such as Ellen, are campaigning against it, all the TV shows are covering it, the schools are educating parents about it.
I think all this is valid to a point...but can we try not go overboard? Something I've seen in my school, for instance, is that any minor disagreement between students is now being labeled "bullying" and the entire place goes berserk! I think the campaign, with all the media coverage, is beginning to make things worse rather than better.
I, for one, don't want my kids to have to go through childhood without learning how to resolve conflicts with others. I learned lots of valuable life lessons while dealing with kids who would now be labeled as "bullies". I learned how to choose my friends, who to trust, how to stick up for others. I learned not to care what others think, how to be strong, how to stand up for myself. I learned that some kids are irritating and annoying and lack self confidence - and that it wouldn't affect me adversely unless I let it.
I used many of these lessons learned later in the work force when faced with co-workers who were out to use me, walk all over me, or just in it for themselves. I used it to break free of neighborhood cliques and be inclusive through my ability to relate to what it feels like to be an outsider (though I'm still not going to be forced to invite every person to every party I have). I learned everyone isn't going to like me all the time, that sometimes people are selfish, that I can't win them all. And that all of those things are okay. It's called "That's life."
Let's look at the real definition of "Bullying" by Olweus, the leading researcher of bullying behavior:
"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself."
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
My kid got stabbed in the neck with a fork this school year and I've had to respond to many parents who labeled the perpetrator as a bully. I had to tell them that it was an argument between kids, that it wasn't anything that had been occuring over time, that he wasn't a "bully"! He was a kid who made a really stupid choice.
Now, I'm going to say what I said at this month's PTO meeting...
Sometimes kids are not well behaved. Sometimes kids have conflicts. Sometimes every kid is not going to be friends with every other kid. Let's not jump on the bullying bandwagon so quickly! Let's acknowledge these conflicts and discipline accordingly without jumping into the bullying protocol immediately...please? Because I believe adults labeling kids as "bullies" unnecessarily is kind of ... bully-ish.
Don't misunderstand, I think it is valuable to teach kids not to bully, I just think the excessive coverage has it turning a corner into something else and that real bullying isn't as widespread as the media would have us believe. Feel free to slam me for that opinion.
So, it's Feedback Friday and I need to know...
Do you feel like Bullying is more prevalent and/or dangerous today or do you think it's the same behavior with a different label?
Do you believe that kids can gain something valuable from learning to resolve some conflicts with other kids or should all conflicts be avoided?