Everyone loathes the idea of having to deal with "Bullies"; we assume it's only associated with mean, cruel and inconsiderate people from faraway land when in truth bullies come in all colours, ages, gender and culture and can often unveil itself amongst those we categorise as "good citizens".
Reading a post yesterday on social media about bullies made me realise how as adult we can be heavily involved in bullying others ourselves, whether it is racially motivated or not and yet not label or recognise it as partaking in bullying; when in fact the mere thought of hearing the same attitude in kids fill us with sadness and contempt.
I never experienced bullying until adulthood; my first exposure to it was in a corporate setting decades ago. I had a line manager who was high up the career ladder in a big UK company but often reduce his staff to tears, to the point that, it was not unusual to walk into the restroom and see someone who has collided with his bullying tendency in tears. It wasn’t long before the staffs involved devised and invented strategies of managing this man; I realised then that our strategies of managing him only helped us not the bully, he simply moved on to others who had not mastered the act of managing his bully tendencies. And as I wasn’t alone at the receiving end of his behaviour, it didn’t leave any lasting damage knowing the behaviour was across the staff group.
In the post I'd read yesterday, a group of boys had picked on a girl intentionally at one of our local school calling her back mini mouse because she was wearing her hair in bunches. As expected the thread of comments was filled with others parents indignation of the incident as other parents supported and encouraged the mother and her daughter whilst publicly calling out the unacceptable behaviour…. You can imagine some of the comments!
However, amongst those commenting was also another mother whose daughter had also been picked on by pair groups in another local school, they had taken a video clip of her daughter and were circulating it around the school with a derogatory caption which filled the parent with sadness and hurt. The parent of this girl felt the pair group had been mean, cruel, unloving and were jealous of her daughter and therefore she was keen to see the school take some actions in correcting this turn of event.
I was somewhat shocked and surprised to read some of the comments from some of the individuals who had posted to support the post and not because I support or advocate bullying in any form but because I know some of those people and some of them have themselves partaken in bullying locally. I realised that it is so easy to identify this behaviour in children and call it cruel and mean, showing disdain and sadness because it’s suddenly close to home & affect our loved one's, when in truth some of this individuals have engaged in the same behaviour on a regular basis without any thoughts of those at the receiving end of their cruel and mean behaviour.
The woman whose daughter had been caught on a video clip had for several months herself not only been party to the campaign of bullying against me but chased me down the road in her car as I took a long walk through her part of the town one sunny evening last summer. Her actions fuelled by gossips about me from neighbours and work colleagues, launching at me in anger: Could it be that she didn't recognise the behaviour in herself at the time, or is it acceptable for adults to bully other adults by spreading gossip just like her daughters pair group had done with the video clip. Not realising her behaviour was no different to the group of teenagers who were circulating the video clip or the boys' name calling; she wrongly sought correcting action from the school.
The comments on the thread went on and on; many who had actively partaken in enabling community bullying towards me were filled with indignation and sadness for the same actions from kids, how could this possibly be I thought? I pondered long and hard that if adults are themselves publicly engaging and supporting acts of bullying in one form or the other, what is truly expected of the children and the many generations in between? Whether the bullying is racially motivated or not, we live in a community that has publicly allowed, supported and engaged in bullying for so long, even those who did not engage with it but ignorantly looked on, signified approval by remaining silent, and somehow we expect a different behaviour from the children.
We have to remember that kids can be mean, cruel, nasty and unkind just like the adults they see and watch daily. It seems as if the fruit of bullying the adults have sowed in the community, are not expected to yield any fruits in the next generation. Therefore the next time you actively engage in bullying in any form remembers the kids are watching and it's not going to be long before they emulate you and sometimes even do it better than you. It is important to remember that receiving gossip, spreading it and acting bullish is no different to what the kids who bully others do. If it doesn't surprise you in yourself, it must not surprise you in the younger generations.
How quickly some of those parents who have been involved in bullying themselves run to the school, insisting the school investigate the matter and fix the problem, whilst seeking assurance that their son or daughter will never be put through the same again when in truth they partake of the same daily without any explanation.
We need to model what we want to see in those children. If you stop been a bully, that is one less bully in the society. Realising that, the mean, cruel, unkind and jealous person can be you and me in our daily living and dealing with one another, not some strange kid who we desperately wonder who their parents are.
Whilst we grasp with shock and horror at the thought of a group of girls sharing a video clip of another innocent girl or a girl been racially bullied by name calling, many adults do the same daily without any thoughts, completely dissociating the kid's actions to all that some adults actively engaged in. As I read on in the thread, I gasped in laughter and shocks as I read comments from people who had actively involved in the receiving and spreading gossip about me and in a bullying manner had allowed me to know somehow that they had been involved, as they detailed their disgust of bullying and how to leave bullies behind. I was utterly shocked, are these the same people or could I have read their names wrong! I realise that it seems as if there is a broken bridge sometimes between people's actions and words! My understanding is that convictions flow through in our actions, they are not divorced one from another.
I intentionally didn't deal with the strategies and ways of dealing with bullies in this post which is common in articles about bullying because I felt that some bullies simply don't recognise themselves as bullies, as seen in the example above and therefore maybe if this post goes in some ways towards helping them realise that their behaviour is no different to those they categorise as cruel and mean that it would somehow result in a positive change in behaviour which means their victims won't have to master any strategies in managing their cruel and mean behaviours!
Let's remember who bullies are, individuals who hurt others with their words and actions.