For years we have been hearing about the need for schools to address bullying. A visit to any local public school will certainly highlight this as you cannot get past the front office without seeing a “No Tolerance on Bullying” poster. Schools hold meetings, organize rallies, bring in speakers, hire local celebrities, provide confidential reporting options, and employ school counselors to address issues as they arise. One would think these efforts would yield better results, right? Wrong.
Bullying does not begin when children go to school. Bullying begins with the misuse of power in relationships. Power differences exist in every family, every workplace, every school, every church, every society and every culture. Adults bully children all the time. Parents use discipline tactics such as physical punishment, intimidation, or manipulation that in any other relationship would be considered abusive. Teachers and school staff bully students by withholding information, expressing contempt for certain students, humiliating them in front of the class, etc. I know a teacher who seats his students according to their academic performance and publicly displays grades in front of the classroom. Couples bully each other during disagreements. Adult children caring for aging parents bully their elderly parents. Siblings bully each other, and everyone shrugs it off and calls it sibling rivalry. I have been bullied in the workplace by supervisors who did not like me for reasons having nothing to do with my job performance.
Yet, we expect our children to behave better than we do. We expect them to show respect, be kind, express their feelings with helpful words, be inclusive, teamwork, and stand up for others. We hold them to a higher standard than we do ourselves. If we want bullying to stop, we have to first address it in the home. We have to honestly look at our own conduct in our relationships with our spouses, children, parents, and siblings. The second way to address bullying is by holding adults accountable for the way they treat children. No teacher, receptionist, doctor, or school nurse should be allowed to be rude, disrespectful or unkind to the children in their care. No tolerance starts with us, not our children.