Stop bullying now!

No bullies allowed2

Today all across Australia children, teachers and other school personnel are dressing in orange to mark the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The Bullying No Way! Program aims to

“create learning environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected and valued”

A very worthwhile goal, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Bullying No Way website has resources for parents, teachers and students, including this video for young children:

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered a message to children telling them that there is no place for bullying in Australia, that bullying is wrong.  I definitely agree!

Picture1

Last month Yvonne Spence organized a very successful #1000 Speak for Compassion campaign. This month she has placed the focus on bullying and requested bloggers to unite their voices against bullying. You can join in by visiting the Facebook page. I have already linked my most recent post Bully for you! as well as this one. There are many others there to read.

Last week Charli Mills extended a challenge to write a flash fiction story about bullies. She has compiled the wonderful stories in her post Circling the Bullies.

My previous post, Bully for you! received many comments, some sharing experiences of bullying, either of themselves or someone close to them. One comment was from a new visitor to my blog Sherrill S Cannon who shared information about her books dealing with bullying for children, and also explained her involvement with I’m bully free.org to which she donates 50% of the revenue from her books purchased through that page.

There are many other organizations that promote information about and actions against bullying worldwide.  Hopefully as more voices unite in making others aware of, and in speaking out against bullying, we can come close to eradicating it from our society.

As Michelle James commented on my previous post

“More needs to be done to prevent bullying. I really believe that there should be more intensive courses for teachers and administrators to learn to deal with the bully issue. We will never eradicate bullying completely. It is a tactic used by despots and terrorists, and sadly, they seem to thrive.”

Many of the comments on the post last week were in relation to the bullying incident involving Marnie. I share her story again here in case you missed it:

Not funny at all!

Jasmine and Georgie rushed towards the cluster of children who were laughing hysterically at something unseen. They expected to see an entertainer performing magic tricks. Instead they saw Marnie, face down in a puddle, reaching for her unicorn; sobbing.

“Good one, Brucie!” Two boys high-5ed. Another called, “Way to go!”

The children stood transfixed by the spectacle. Jasmine pushed through. She picked up the muddied unicorn, stretched out a hand to help Marnie up, then put an arm around her waist,

As she led Marnie away Jasmine glared at the group of disbelieving faces.

“Shame on you,” she said*.

*Thanks to Donna Marie for suggesting I change “mouthed” to “said”.

In this piece I tried to show that there may be many participants in bullying, not just the obvious “victim” and “bully”.

Marnie is the obvious victim. But there were many onlookers. None, except Jasmine, spoke up against the bully. By their silence were they condoning it? Or were they fearful that they would be the next targets if they said anything? Does that also make them victims? How does that affect their confidence and self-image?

Brucie was the obvious bully, causing Marnie’s embarrassment. But what of the boys who applauded with their high-5s and words of encouragement? Were they joining in because they too were mean; part of a gang of bullies? Or like the other onlookers, did they feel threatened about what may happen to them if they didn’t join in?

But is Brucie also a victim? What makes a bully a bully? Why did he pick on the vulnerable? What in his life caused him to act this way?

And what of Georgie who stood back in the crowd and did nothing while her friend Jasmine went to Marnie’s rescue? Why was she reticent to support her friend?

I wonder, too, what they all said when they turned away. Did they speak out in private about the bullies? Geoff Le Pard commented on a similar lack of support for him when he was bullied at school.

Jasmine was the only one who came to her rescue? Why did she? How was she feeling? Had she been the victim of bullying and so felt empathy with Marnie? Did she just know it was wrong and that it was important for someone to take a stand? What had happened in her life to make her so strong?

Donna Marie of Writer’s Side Up commented how being bullied had ruined her boyfriend’s life and suggested that more needs to be done to change the bully’s behaviour. Perhaps some bullies need protection from bullies themselves. Did they need to learn the behaviour somewhere?

The word bullying is sometimes used to describe a one-off unpleasant incident, like poking out a tongue or showing the “rude” finger. However bullying usually refers to something more ongoing, where there is an imbalance of power, the “stronger” picking on the “weaker”.

To avoid becoming the weaker, I think children need to develop resilience. They need to realise that just because somebody says it doesn’t make it true. They need to learn to take responsibility for their feelings, realise that they can choose to feel upset or choose to ignore it. I am in no way saying they should ignore aggressive, violent, intimidating behaviour, but learning to be resilient about the little things helps to develop strength of character.

I think we would probably all agree that bullying is a complex issue with many facets. That education is required to reduce its incidence is a given. What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

21 thoughts on “Stop bullying now!

  1. Sarah Brentyn

    I’m still struggling to write about bullying. I completely agree it is a complex issue (to say the least) as, like you said, it involves possible bullying of the bully, “passive” bullies, what bullying really is…there’s so much. I don’t know. I’m working on my piece. Better late than never. (I was always the “Jasmine” of the group — though I don’t think I was kind enough to say “shame on you”. What I said was a tad ruder than that.) 😉

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  2. TanGental

    I look back now and wonder at a lot of what we let go, partly because it was just the way it was and partly through fear. We knew the person was tormented but it wasn’t the done thing to step in. I was told, more than once, to, in effect, suck it up. You needed to be tough to survive so in an odd way the bully did you good if he or she hardened you. What a curious logic, like wearing in a pair of shoes to toughen up your feet rather than getting something that fitted in the first place. Very good and telling post, Norah. And good to see Abbott doing something right for a change!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment, Geoff.
      Suck it up. Yep, that’s about it, isn’t it: be a “man”. It is difficult to know when to suggest that another’s meanness be ignored and when to take action. Anyone who is being victimized though, needs someone to step in with support initially and then ways to put a stop to it. Your analogy of the ill-fitting shoes is a good one. What permanent damage can be done to feet that way. The immediate damage is unpleasant enough. It is interesting how some of these experiences that have shaped us, that we have attempted to ignore because that’s what we were told to do, linger in our memories long after with a very sour and bitter aftertaste. We would have been better without them!

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      1. TanGental

        I’ve read a lot about how some are grateful for the challenges of the bully because it made them stronger. I wonder. Would they have been as strong by hearing the stories and learning from them rather than experiencing themsleves? I don’t really see why not?

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        1. Norah Post author

          I think I could do without it! There’s just as much chance of it weakening as there is of it strengthening, or maybe even more. You can’t go back and change it, but there’s nothing wrong with wishing it hadn’t happened. Being grateful for it for any reason sounds a bit like condoning it. The bully could say, “You’ll thank me for this one day!” No!

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            1. Norah Post author

              Probably. And there is no going back. And it is true that we are a sum of all our experiences, and more. I know I used to that all my experiences have combined to make me who I am so said that I wouldn’t change anything. (no regrets etc) But I was young and foolish then. Now I think I’d be a much better me if I hadn’t had some of them!

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  3. macjam47

    Great post and links, Norah. When we were children, my sister coming home from school upset because she was the target of another girl who bullied different girls everyday. She tripped my sister, and then laughed when my sister cried – she had to have stitches in her knee due to falling on a sharp rock. I remember that my sister, between sobs, kept saying everyone else just stood there and watched. As a child, I didn’t understand why they didn’t help my sister get up. Were they victims who were afraid the bully would turn on them or passive bullies? At the time the child me thought they were siding with the bully. The adult me thinks they were probably afraid to act for fear of being the next target. No, there is no easy solution. The problem is far more complex than most people think.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. How sad for your sister. I think the situation is humiliating enough, but to have everyone stand gawking and offering no support is the ultimate abandonment. It is very difficult to hold your head high in such a hostile situation. I hope you sister has been able to let the situation go. It obviously had a big impact on you. I can tell from your recollection. It is dreadful that people are too scared for their own safety to step in and help another in distress, but I don’t think I would have been any different then, or now. Too many times we are told to ignore, not interfere, that it is none of our business. Maybe it is time to make it our business.

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  4. Annecdotist

    I like how you’ve drawn on your previous post in this one, especially how you’ve looked at the various motivations of the different characters – almost like analysing a play!
    I do think there can be similarities between the bullies and those they pick on in terms of an underlying vulnerability, perhaps based on how they’ve been treated in the home. Bullies might have an exaggerated need to reassure themselves of their social standing in the peer group because of an underlying lack of confidence, while the bullied might be especially attuned to other people’s negative opinion of them. Children like Jasmine are able to step away from both these positions, confident enough in themselves that they have no need to belittle others, nor do they fear the other’s attack.
    Compassionate teachers like you can help to develop this state of mind within children who then grow up, hopefully, to be non-bullying adults.

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    1. Bec

      I agree with Anne, great post. And I really appreciate Anne’s discussion of what might lead children to be a Brucie or a Jasmine. Hopefully we can help to turn the Brucies of the world into Jasmines. Thanks Nor.

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    2. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, Anne. I appreciate the way you have gone into further depth about the possible mindsets of bullies and victims; and I appreciate your admiration for Jasmine. We definitely need more people who are confident enough in themselves to not require building their own status at the expense of others.

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