I don’t have a lot of faith in most bullying programs in schools. Mainly because they focus on the children and not the families. I believe a lot of bullying is generated in homes where bullying occurs. We don’t realize it because bullying is part of our traditional parenting methods. We punish and threaten children to get them to do what we want. Isn’t that bullying? To many children it feels that way—somebody bigger and more powerful telling me what to do or else. When parents find out their child is bullying at school, what is the typical outcome? That child will be yelled at, lectured to, punished in some way—in other words, bullied. Bullying is an everyday occurrence in most homes. It’s a wonder we don’t have more bullies.
Not only are children bullied by their parents, but parents live in a world of bullies. Look at corporate America. It seems that the only way to get ahead these days is to be a bully among those competing for jobs. The media shows our children how all the time. Movies, Youtube, video games are all full of scenarios that show the success of bullies getting what they want.
We have to start at the foundation. We must engage in peaceful, empathic, accepting ways of parenting. That doesn’t mean accepting behavior no matter what. It means accepting the child, who he is and how he views his world, in order to connect and then have influence over his behavior. Everyone’s needs in the family are equally relevant. Problem solving means anyone can say, This isn’t working for me. How can we make it work for both/all of us?
Siblings bully each other and parents freak out. There is a certain amount of sibling skirmishes that need to be allowed and worked out without parental involvement, but if true bullying is happening then intervention is needed—but not the traditional kind. Punishing or banishing the aggressor to her room only fuels her anger and determination. Parents can facilitate conflict resolution so children learn at home how to get their feelings out and heard and how to solve a problem in a way that no one loses. Children then learn how to get what they want but they learn how to do it while respecting and cooperating with the other.
We need to admit that families are at the root of bullying—not to be blamed for it but to take responsibility for the words and actions that influence young vulnerable minds. We have bought into the reward and punishment system of parenting, but our children haven’t—yet. We need to put an end to it and not until we do will we see an end to bullying.