Bullying is widespread and the consequences are life-changing! Schools often take the anti-bullying approach to solve the problem but this is NOT the solution. Anti-bullying programs often stress a “zero-tolerance policy.” This sounds great but in reality it only produces a false sense of security. Bullying isn’t always overt and out in the open. People who intend to make another person feel bad are aware that they will get into trouble if others see them blatantly physically or emotionally harm someone. Therefore, bullying is often done covertly. When done covertly there is little evidence and a school principal isn’t going to punish a student with little or no evidence. The bully could even turn things around and make it look like they are the victim. What is a principal to do?
Think about this, how do adults bully? Adults know that they will get into trouble if there is evidence that they are bullying someone so they bully stealthily. So, do we really think that children only bully others out in the open? Yea, right! The problem is some people are so good at “stealth bullying” that even with witnesses it goes unnoticed (except to the intended victim). Moreover, each time a person is bullied it causes emotional pain. Eventually the bullying can be minor but the pain intense. Victims of bullying can carry the scars for decades.
The antidote to bullying is EMPATHY! Instead of focusing on anti-bullying programs, schools should focus on empathy. When students (and adults) learn empathy they are learning how to see things from a different perspective. This isn’t about getting the bullies to see things from the victims’ perspectives, although that is one of the positive outcomes of this program. The goal is to helping everyone learn to think outside of their own frame of reference (perspective) so they can see the bigger picture. When victims of bullying can understand points of view outside of their own pain they will eventually be able to let go of that pain. It does not mean the victims forgive the bullies who target them. It means the victims can become empowered by understanding their own empathy and seeing the beautiful world around them. When people are able to get out of their egocentric view (bullies and victims) they are not only kinder to each other but they are also more interested in global concerns. Let’s teach empathy instead of focusing on bullying.
If interested in Empathy: The Antidote to Bullying, Bias, and Bigotry workshop please contact- Jill Lam at Forest Alliance Coaching.