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How to Combat Bullying Behavior

After 9/11, like most Americans, I felt extremely disheartened. From researching the origins of terrorists, I turned my attention to bullying behavior in general. Following is an excerpt from my research and thoughts at that time: 

Why do some people behave like bullies?

I wonder what motivates bullies to strike out in such hurtful ways.  I am curious about what they experience, think and feel.  I sense the waste and misdirection of their energies.  I believe my life could be more peaceful and productive.  I believe their lives could be more peaceful and productive as well.

Whatever motivates some people to treat others inhumanely has been a gnawing curiosity to me since childhood observations and encounters. I noticed some adults seemed kind and gentle while others seemed rageful and hostile. I wondered why some children were upset when they got in trouble at school while others found it amusing, fun and worth the punishment to be mischievous. I wondered why some children frolicked on the playground while others stood alone or were taunted. I wondered why some children were bullies and others were bullied. Some children seemed happy and well-adjusted while others appeared downcast and ill-at-ease. What were the variables in people’s lives and characters that explained these differences? (Pedalino, 2004)

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a wise friend. We recalled a time when we had diametrically opposed views. In her wisdom she responded that views are based on ideas but compassion for people, all people, stems from our heart.

Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.

Early on in life we learn this motto. We are taught to be kind to our neighbors, kind to our families, kind to our coworkers, kind to our classmates. We are taught that anger is a real feeling that is okay but how we express it matters. We are supposed to behave responsibly, be good citizens, obey the law and follow rules. That is the underlying premise of a civilized society.

Family can create a sense of belonging.

This is where positive morals should be modeled. However, with today’s busy schedules, this concept is not always successful. Often, both parents work and children are involved in numerous activities. Making time to spend together becomes very challenging. Information that is accessed on-line can be inaccurate. Who to believe? What to trust? Life can be very confusing.

A sense of powerlessness can lead to hopelessness and withdrawal or frustration, anger and bullying behavior. People desire to be heard, understood, respected, accepted and valued. According to Diana Divecha, Ph.D., it is psychologically very important for parents to teach emotional and interpersonal skills.

How can bullying behavior be combatted? Consider the following queries:

  1. What has happened to family dinner time? This is a good opportunity for discussion and, when tolerant of differing views, can enhance critical thinking skills versus the negative impact of group think.  
  2. What has happened to family chores? These promote a spirit of cooperation and valuing of individual participation.
  3. What about family outings? These moments impress the importance and worthiness of having fun and enjoyment together.
  4. What about a holiday from phones and technology? This allows for eye contact and the development of social and conversational skills.

People with good self-esteem have no need to bully others.
So whistle while you work…pass it on!

Divecha, D. (2019, Nov.6). What Can Parents Do About Bullying.
Greater Good Magazine.

Pedalino, B. (2004). Notice me—I am unique: The socialization experience of fifth grade boys who display bullying behavior. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Center for Humanistic Studies Graduate School, Farmington Hills, MI