#NoBulliesAllowed – The Bully In Us

We all have heard the story of little Joey who came home with a black eye. “Joey why did you get into a fight? “asked his father. “Didn’t I ask you to count to 10 before losing your temper?

Yes Dad,” replied Joey, “But Pete’s dad taught him to count till 5 so he beat me to the punch.

I am sure we all see the basic flaw in this parenting gem. Joey and Pete were never told not to lose their temper. Their dads assumed nature would take its course if they were taught a counting technique.

This is exactly what parents do when it comes to bullying as well. How often as parents do we notice our child grabbing, shoving or being mean on the playground? And how often do we sagely say

I never interfere. Children should learn to resolve their own fights.

Or worse how often do we indulgently applaud the child for this inappropriate behaviour by saying

I am glad he/she can stand up for themselves.

There is a thin line between letting children getting in and out of minor scrapes and actively encouraging bad behaviour.

For some reason parents place a great premium on their children “being tough”. What does “being tough” really mean? It means that children will not go crying to Mommy, Daddy or Teacher when things go wrong. They will use their words or if need be fists to deal with any situation.

How often does this defence mechanism turn into bullying behaviour? Almost always. Children soon learn that attack is the best form of defence. While we all think of the school bully as a big strong boy who grunts instead of speaks, bullies come in all shapes and sizes and can be younger as well as older children and girls as well as boys. In fact, each one of us has a bullying streak in us.

We learn at an early age that the value of ganging up against someone, either by using force or by verbal jibes is great. This automatically deflects attention from our own flaws and insecurities.

The one thing children fear the most, which we feared also as children was being different from the others. We knew that any difference would be immediately spotted and unmercifully teased. This could be one’s weight too fat or too thin, a pimple on one’s nose, one’s sense of dress, different food, being praised or scolded by a teacher, a bad grade or even a good grade. Anything that triggers the insecurity of the majority can make someone a minority.

The answer to all this is simple to state-compassion and tolerance. Inculcating these qualities in children and demonstrating them as adults is a totally different ball game. But it is needed now more than ever. It is time to present the other side of the argument to children. It is time to stop children from thinking of self-preservation alone. Let us truly educate children on different perspectives, different lifestyles and normalise the different so different is no longer equated to weird. As adults we need to reflect on who makes us insecure and see if the solution is to lash out at that person in a petty manner or have a more considered response. It is time to acknowledge the inner bully in us and show him/her a better way to cope. It is time Joey and Pete’s fathers met each other.

Photo Credits : Matt Mahurin

Words By : Chandrika Rao

Chandrika Rao is a Psychologist and Development Sector Professional, passionate about children’s and women’s issues and mother to a teenage boy.

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