Why We Have a Bullying Problem

bullying

There’s been a lot of focus in the last several years (really, since Columbine in 1999) on bullying, mostly in schools.  Why is bullying so rampant?  How do we combat it?  Why does it seem to be getting worse?  What can we do to protect our children from it?

Everyone’s so worried about it.  People are pulling their kids out of school.  They are calling for school policy reform.  They are calling for anti-bullying measures.  They cannot figure out where this is coming from.

But the answer is obvious.

It is coming from the parents.

Adults Bully Too

Yes…the parents.  Look no further than your average mom or dad.  Heck, look no further than your average online discussion!  Look how badly full grown adults behave when they think they can get away with it.  People are downright nasty to others who have different opinions than they do.  And when they’re angry, they often resort to name calling, insulting a person’s image/attractiveness/weight, belittling, and more.

That’s bullying, folks.

When you’re rude to someone because they are different than you are, that’s bullying.  And maybe you don’t see it that way because adults don’t follow one person around for weeks, months, years on end, tormenting that one person in particular.  But adults don’t really have those same opportunities, because they’re not in a setting that allows them access to one person for that long.  But in school…that’s exactly what kids have.

If someone cuts you off in traffic and you scream out the window and swear…that’s bullying.  Even if you yell and swear inside your car and the other person doesn’t hear, but your kids do…that’s bullying.  (They’re getting the message that when someone does something you don’t like, that’s how you handle it.)

If a service person makes a mistake, is slow to serve you, or otherwise annoys you and you are rude and snippy to them, that’s bullying.

If you’re watching TV and you’re making comments about how ugly a person is, or stupid a person is, or otherwise being judgmental, that’s bullying.  It doesn’t matter that they can’t hear you…your children are listening.

And when children see and hear these things, they think it is okay.  They think they can talk to their peers this way.  They don’t see a difference between judging strangers on TV and judging kids they go to school with.  They’ve gotten the message that certain things are wrong, weird, or bad — and they’ll be ready to point it out and make fun of kids who personify those traits.

Adult Bullying Isn’t Innocent

But oh, come on.  It’s all innocent!  The “true” bullies are the ones who have serious psychological problems, whose parents abuse them, who are truly narcissistic.  

That’s true sometimes.  But not really.  Most bullies, they say, actually have a lot of friends and very high self-esteem.  They aren’t damaged or abused.  They don’t bully because they’re screwed up.  They bully because they feel strong, proud, and righteous.  Which is why the “average” kid observing parents who bully can be dangerous.

But, all those adults saying those things…that’s not really bullying.  I mean, not really….

Sure it is.  Let’s take a recent case.  This week, Hoda and Kathie Lee on the TODAY show were discussing a blog post from Little Owl Crunchy Momma, Jacque.  The post was “Why I Haven’t Washed My Hair in Five Years.”  If you dive into it, you find that she rinses her hair a couple times a week and washes other body parts as necessary, but has found for her hair that additional care isn’t required.  (I personally couldn’t use nothing, because my hair tends to be more oily, but those with more ‘average’ or dry hair often find it works great.)

But they were rude.  “That can’t be safe.”  “That’s just gross.”  “Her hair has to smell.”  They didn’t discuss why someone might do this, or why it can work for some.  They made uneducated and incorrect assumptions, then judged them.  They sounded like high schoolers!  And where do we think high schoolers learn it…?

For professional “journalists” this was unacceptable and over the line.  Why is it okay for grown women to go on TV and make pithy, stupid comments about someone they don’t even know?  

This story was later posted to Facebook (on the TODAY show’s wall) and thousands more people started to insult and belittle her, calling her “gross,” “dirty,” and speculating about what else she doesn’t wash, how much she smells, and so on.

Really?  Really?

This is considered appropriate behavior (apparently) by adults on the internet.  It’s okay to talk like that to or about someone you’ve never met.  To judge them because they do things differently than you do, or they look different, or they have a different religion, or….

And we wonder where kids learn it?  They learn it at home.  From their parents.  Who may say that treating others this way isn’t okay, but kids do what you do, not what you say.

Jacque appeared on n episode of The Doctors, filmed on Friday, 1/17, to discuss her hair care methods in more depth.  The air date is TBD.

Grow Up

All the anti-bullying training sessions in the world aren’t going to curb our bullying problem when we have adults who behave this way regularly.  We teach our youth through example.  If we say “Don’t bully” but we mistreat others regularly, our children will do the same.  They follow the example that’s been set.

The way to really curb bullying is for adults to grow up.  To realize that it’s important to treat each other with love and respect all the time.  

I’ve seen people who are attempting to share their sincere belief in positive parenting, which includes treating children with respect and never shaming them, by…speaking disrespectfully to adults who disagree, and shaming them!  So, wait, you’re trying to tell us how great your parenting with respect is, by disrespecting adults?  I have a hard time believing they practice what they preach when they can’t afford other adults the same respect they purport to give their children.  This just does not make sense to me.

Grow up.

Not everyone’s going to agree with you — it’s okay.  Online, right after you’ve shared an opinion, someone’s going to share a dissenting opinion without mentioning you — they’re just sharing their thoughts, not doing it “at” you.  Even if they are, you have the right to offer a respectful response, or…ignore it!  Rude strangers don’t own you.

Let’s make a real effort to end bullying, by changing our own attitudes.  The world will be a better place with respectful people in it.

What do you think is causing the bullying problem?

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you, Kate. What a wonderful response. We really do need to be more aware of how we are treating others around our children. Our kids model us far more by our actions that our words. I still am in shock that the Today Show was so rude on air about this healthy and attractive woman. Her hair looks amazing with her current washing treatment. They couldn’t even the story right – just had to focus on how different her practices were.

    thank you again for your words,
    Angela

  2. says

    Wow, this was very refreshing to read. This is so true because I have encountered this on line so much. The worst instance was when I made a statement against mandatory drug testing, some gentleman starting calling me a “Sh*t for brains drugger.” Gotta love him, not. Parents aren’t the only adults who set a poor example, teachers can be just as bad. I have many experiences of that. Great post!

  3. Pam says

    I completely agree… “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. The “bullies” at our school have parents who should be ashamed of their own behaviors. But of course they are clueless and their child is “perfect”.

  4. Karen says

    I agree that the way in which we behave influences our children but you are wrong in referring to all these instances as bullying. For an incident to be classified as bullying 3 components need to be in place, which isn’t the case in the majority of your examples. 1. Needs to be intentional, 2. Needs to be repeated 3. An imbalance of power needs to be present. Now I’m all for ending bullying in our world and believe that how we are treating each other while or children are watching and observing impacts how they treat others, however, the unkind behaviors you describe that happen in isolation (screaming at a driver who cuts you off etc.) is not bullying. We need to ensure we are demanding SEL curriculum in our schools, we have to check our manners and work on the golden rule of treating others as we would like to be treated. There are many who feel we throw around the word bullying to much, as someone who has done their asters thesis on the topic and continuing the exploration of the toic on Post grad work I have to agree. Although the bullying epidemic is real and we are losing precious babies to bullycide from it, not every curse word or rude interaction is bullying. Of we take care and truly isolate and identify true bullying behavior we may fond success on curtailing the behavior. Just my two cents!

  5. Sandi Wren says

    Wow! You sure hit the nail on the head with regards to the origin of bullying. After having two teens go through school with the youngest graduating this year, I noticed for years that the kids who bullied had parents that did the same. These parents also seemed to have lots of friends and active social lives, but they appeared to enjoy singling out people to ridicule and gossip about at their parties, or at work, or at their kids’ sporting events, dance classes or at school. Anyone outside their social circle is fair game to pick on for perceived sins such as being overweight, poor, disabled, unattractive, etc. Their most vehement nastiness target parents of children who dare to complain at the school about the bully’s children picking on other kids. Yet these same bully parents post on their social media sites to wear pink and support anti-bullying day. As long as there are parents who model bullying behavior to their children, I think the cycle will continue. Parents who bully learned that acting as a bully often gets them what they want, they often have lots of similar friends, and there isn’t any motivation on their part to change as long as the bullying behavior achieves what they want.

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