Bullying in schools is a problem that is at last receiving the attention it deserves. Schools are a microcosm for society as a whole. The division of power in a school is divided into those with it and those without. Now, there is benevolent power, the kind we hope our leaders have and use, and then there is the distorted kind that takes advantage of those less powerful. Power imbalances of this kind flourish in societal systems that favor the strong over the weak, the popular over the less popular and the advantaged over the disadvantaged. Bullying in schools continues to happen because of this. The popular jocks and sporty types lord it over the more introverted, less high profile regular kids that are guilty of nothing more than being their unassuming selves.
Teachers have a hard time diagnosing the underlying issues behind bullying in schools because the perpetrators are often successful, popular and master manipulators. Victims, on the other hand, are normally passive and insecure with few friends or supporters. Bullying in schools flourishes especially well in environments where negative reinforcement is used to regulate antisocial behavior. In these situations both the perpetrator and the victim are usually punished without any investigation of the causes. Pushing someone around to show them that pushing someone around is undesirable is a guaranteed recipe for failure. In particularly bad cases the perpetrator is indulged while the victim is punished for standing up for himself.
Good schools will be aware of the vital role they play in creating a positive environment where socially unacceptable behavior is quickly but not punitively dealt with. The emphasis in these schools will be on guidance for both the bully and the victim. The bully will be taught that the behavior he exhibits will not, under any circumstances, be tolerated. He will be guided in how to moderate his aggression and behave in a more socially acceptable way. Bullying in schools is best handled in a two-pronged way. It is not enough to focus on the perpetrator; the victim will also need instruction on assertion and issues of confidence.
Realistically many schools simply do not have the time and staff to operate in this way so if your child is or has been a victim of bullying it may be time to consider changing to another school environment altogether. Some schools are particularly geared towards the support of positive behaviors in their students. It is an important focus of an enlightened, more holistic attitude to education as a whole. These schools go to great lengths to inculcate social values that preserve each person’s right to be themselves.
Bullying in these schools is understandably reduced to a minimum and when it appears it is quickly attended to. Traditional schools come from a more old-school approach where bullying in schools is still considered par for the course. In these institutions the aggressive dynamics are regarded somewhat philosophically as a part of kids being kids. This view is remarkably short sighted given the statistics on bullies at school growing up to be bullies in the boardroom and bullies at home.
What can we parents do if our child is bullied? Well, even if our child is not bullied, we need to put pressure on schools to create an environment that is mutually beneficial for all students, the strong and the weak, big and small, the advantaged and the disadvantaged. We need to care what experience our child is having at school regarding the all-important tenets of justice and the wise use of power.
Bullying in schools would not exist if the country’s constitution was taken seriously and each precious child respected for who and what they are. Bullying cannot develop in schools that place a high priority on honor, justice and respect. Wherever it raises its ugly head it would be swiftly dealt with. Bullies would quickly learn through social sanctions what behavior was acceptable and what was not. Like all societal problems bullying in schools has its causes deep down in the collective psyche. As little as 2% of the population have serious personality disorders. The rest of society’s bullies were, more often than not, victims themselves.
Parents cannot be overly aware of their roles as models for their children. Aggressive parental behavior in the home translates into bullying behavior in school. It’s all about balance. Those personalities that are dominating need guidance on the moderation of that power. Parents of teens who are timid and submissive need to teach them through example and communication how to claim their power and be assertive. Most bullies are reduced to helplessness when confronted with genuine opposition.