Americans and bullying

I see more and more articles about bullying.  Of particular concern to me are bullying of schoolchildren and gays (or those perceived to be gay).

School bullying is particularly heinous.  What keeps going through my head, though, is why these children are not being taught to stand up for themselves.  I was subject to a little bullying in school, but when the bullies found out it wouldn’t really affect me, they stopped.

We (as a society) have put all this effort into raising “self-esteem” for our students — no one fails, everyone wins — and yet we have obviously not instilled any self-confidence.   Sure, some children are less assertive than others, but isn’t it our role as parents to listen to our children, from their youngest days so they feel comfortable talking to us about bullying, and helping them to become as confident as possible in their own self-worth?

So I’m cogitating….

Americans used to pride themselves on self-reliance and interdependence at the community level.  Now, we seem to be teaching our children to conform, not to rock the boat, and to roll over rather than fight when the time is right.  Non-conformance may be the excuse for bullying, so our children may believe non-conformance is somehow bad.

When a child commits suicide due to schoolroom bullying, parents are devastated, of course.  I wonder if some of them don’t share the  guilt, though.  Why couldn’t their child confide in them?  How does the bullying get so bad as to generate suicide thoughts and the parents not know?  Have they not shared thoughts and feelings as a matter of course?  Have they tried to shield their children from issues of concern, so not discussing them seems the norm?  Are we doing today’s children a disservice?

And have we been doing it for too long?  While I generally figure adults can fend for themselves, some young adults are a product of this lax child-rearing.  We teach them they’re victims (the active-shooter scenario in most schools, for crying out loud, involves hiding behind melamine or plywood desks); that fighting, even in defense of their lives, is bad.  Schools help — those who fight are all disciplined (maybe), without regard to any issues of self-defense.  Too many are not teaching self-reliance, but victimhood.

We need to help our children.  That help starts at the individual level.  Parents and guardians, and teachers as well, need to encourage our students to talk, we need to celebrate individuality from the earliest years, and we need to ensure our students have the tools to take care of themselves, whether it’s fighting back or enlisting help.

But none of the articles focus on the “victim”.  “Experts” seem to think we can stop bullying by passing laws and “strengthening” school “no-tolerance” policies, and don’t look at the full scope of the problem.  Will this work?  Apparently not; bullying, according to popular press, is on the increase.

Published in: on August 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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