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Is fighting bullying creating more bullying?

bullying quotes

Bullying has been a huge issue and has been on my mind a lot recently as I have been doing research for a chapter I’m writing. What strikes me as odd is how there are more laws in place than ever before and yet kids are only getting meaner, the bullying more intense.

Why is that?

Well, as we’ve seen in the past, fighting something or someone only makes it grow stronger. With all the focus on the problem and all the negative emotion it stirs up, the issue has no choice, but to expand. We have to pay attention.

But what if these young people are presenting us with an opportunity? What if they are a mere reflection of the hatred and social injustice that has plagued this planet for centuries? How can we expect kids to respect each other when as a whole our society preaches to us that anyone who is different is to be rejected?

We learn to judge ourselves first, then we start to judge others. These kids are showing us what we do to ourselves and each other on a daily basis, only it has become magnified and they are suffering greatly because of it. The anti-bullying movement, for the most part, is just another way to reject what is, rather than getting to the root of the issue.

Yes, all forms of abuse are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. But by saying the bully is wrong and the kids being bullied are just victims, we are setting them up to believe those things about themselves for the rest of their lives.

Now the bully believes “I’m wrong and everyone knows it so why should I even try” which feeds his or her every action.

The bullied believes “I’m just a victim and I need other people to take care of me” which means he or she will almost always let his or her fear run the show.

No one wins. The bullying has stopped temporarily, but will most likely appear again and again in a different form for the rest of their lives.

Unless we start teaching something different.

So what is the root cause of this epidemic? Or at least a major contributing factor?

Disconnection.

Many young people do not have a strong connection to who they really are. It’s no wonder so many feel lost and alone.

They are longing to feel a real connection to themselves and to each other, but have no idea how to express this in a healthy way.

So they act out.

With a life full of shoulds…

  • “I should be skinnier.”
  • “I should be more outgoing.”
  • “I should be better grades.”
  • “I should go to college.”
  • “I should be more like so and so.”

They feel trapped.

There is no perfect human being.

But we teach young people to tie their worth to how they look, what grades they get, how much money they have, etc.

And if we don’t teach them it’s okay to feel what they feel, they will deny an essential part of who they are.

I see it all the time.

Young people denying their feelings for the sake of others.

Automatic disconnect.

Quick tip to help kids reconnect to their feelings:
  1. Acknowledge – Ask them to identify the feeling
  2. Accept – Validate the feeling saying things like “you have every right to feel this way”
  3. Change – Let them know they have the power to now decide how they’d like to feel instead

Many people try to jump right to changing it because it’s uncomfortable to feel bad, but in truth the only way for the feeling to be released is to actually feel it.

Additional possibilities for schools to consider:
  • Make emotional intelligence courses part of the school curriculum
  • Teach empathy and acceptance
  • Teach resiliency
  • Teach self-respect
  • Teach self-defense to increase confidence
  • Teach kids how to stand up for themselves
  • Encourage self-expression – help kids discover the best way for them to get it out
  • Encourage positive self-talk to fuel self-worth
  • Don’t encourage helplessness
  • Help young people find and acknowledge their strengths
  • Create a safe environment for self-expression
  • Bring more programs designed to do all of the above to schools (i.e. Challenge Day)

These things are all easier said than done. And in a perfect world this would not only be taught in schools, but at home too.

But it’s not. Which is why it is up to as as individuals to commit to “being the change.”

And not just do everything we can, but be all of who we are.

Next time: Helping kids connect to who they really are

Some questions to ponder until then:

What part of this can we take responsibility for? In what areas are we not modeling the kindness we wish to see?

How has “fighting” bullying created more bullying?

How will knowing ourselves better impact those around us?

10 replies
  1. Sheila Kennedy says:

    Excellent points! It is a tough situation, but the bullying epidemic can certainly be reduced with some of the great suggestions you have here. It does take self awareness and the sooner they have that, the less likely bullying will ever take hold in their lives – as the bully, the victim or the by-stander.

    Reply
    • Carrie Leigh Sandoval says:

      Thanks Sheila. It is really tough, but I have seen the power of self-awareness not just in my life, but with the kids I work with. I appreciate your feedback!

      Reply
  2. Linda Joy says:

    Carrie, love your 3 tips “Acknowledge. Accept. Change.” because they empower kids with a process to do work with their feelings and not bury them.

    GREAT quote… “If we don’t teach kids how to accept themselves for who they truly are, they are never going to be able to accept one another.”

    Reply
    • Carrie Leigh Sandoval says:

      Thank you Linda! Yes, I’m all about getting people to express their feelings so they know they aren’t their feelings, just the one feeling them. 🙂

      Reply

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