Question of the Decade: Why Do Children Bully?

11 Dec

Several issues caught my attention recently, in the article “New Focus on Bullying Tries to find Solutions: Provincial laws aim to curb problems in wake of suicides,” by James Keller in the Winnipeg Free Press, December 8, 2012, and I draw attention to them in this blog entry and one to come.

Firstly, I was struck by the courage of twenty-three year old, adopted Lindsey Belaire, who managed to survive being bullied throughout her entire school experience—from K-12—by six or seven cruel girls who made it their mission to make Lindsey’s life miserable, calling her “fat,” “ugly,” “popcorn head,” “Orphan Annie,” and more.

Of interest was the fact that after Lindsey went for help and after the well-meaning principal set up lunch- hour anti-bullying talks between Lindsey and the bullying girls, the bullying got worse.

I am not surprised that the anti-bullying meetings between the bullies and victim didn’t work. The bullying girls attended the meeting as a group in which the “instigator” could remain anonymous and maintain hidden control of the group. Most often, there is an instigator in the bullying scenario, as well as followers who have varying degrees of investment in the bullying, ranging from wanting to hurt the victim to wanting not to become the bully’s target. The actual structure of the bullying group has to be discovered by caring and safe adults, in order to begin to alter the group dynamics.

As well, bullying behavior is deeply entrenched in children through role modelling at home, through negative media and video games, through peer group pressure, through negative social hierarchies in classrooms, and these matters need to be discovered and explored with students by guiding and knowledgeable adults who don’t resort to shame/blame tactics. The goal is to help the victim and the bully, and to empower bystanders.

The lunch hour meetings didn’t work because the only way to change bullying behavior is to transform the bullying individual, and to replace an attitude of cruelty toward others with self-love that then generates empathy towards others—a time consuming process!  The transformation comes as the bully and bystanders internalize new understandings—not through surface information that doesn’t reach the channels of change in the psyches of the bullying children.

The article goes on to state that “politicians are promoting anti-bullying strategies and laws,” with policies that are vastly different and that “reflect the struggle to understand why children bully.” This question is essential to our understanding of bullying and our desire to have happier and kinder children and classrooms. Why do children bully?  I am opening up discussion on my blog for others to add their comments because I believe that educators are in an especially powerful position as observers and change-makers as regards anti-bullying strategies.  Educators are in relatively objective positions, unlike parents of children involved.

–continued in next entry


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