ShredTheLabelI was drawn to Sue Scheff’s Huffington Post article “Grownup Bullying and Monster Moms” Immediately. She had me from Hello. “I know bullying and cyberbullying is a topic that many people are becoming immune to.”

We are. And I believe I know why. Two reasons:

  1. We are currently labeling everything bullying.
  2. Adults don’t acknowledge their behavior. So why should children?

The issue of bullying has grown too large, with too few solutions. I’ll never forget after 9/11 when we were all in a heightened state of awareness and danger. If you tell someone there is an orange light danger, and then don’t give them anything to do about it, it causes a trauma. It causes an over-reaction, or an under-reaction.

Sue questions whether or not people behave this way as an attention grab. I believe it is that, and more. There are skills for managing our own behavior that we simply are not given in a pro-active way. They are introduced in crisis instead. Our child is accused of being a bully – we attend some counseling and some skills are given – but few people integrate skills well while they are in crisis. And the idea of attending counseling is abhorrent to many. I have been a counselor for a lot of years…people are nervous when they start and many start with closed ears, heart and mind. It’s only the good counselors that know they need a lot of tools to teach people to begin to doctor their own parts.

There are some big questions here.

Why do we feel the need to bring people down instead of lifting them up?

It’s human nature to self-examine negatively, and to have inaccurate and automatic negative thoughts. Even when we think we’re doing pretty well, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. If we haven’t been taught ways to balance our thoughts about ourselves, we won’t even consider the need to balance our thoughts about other people.

Why are we incautious with our words and actions around our children?

It’s generally at home that we behave at our worst. We may give our best to our workplace, to our children’s extracurricular events, to our friends. We get home mentally exhausted, let our guards down, and show our children our worst sides.

Why do we use bully actions when standing up for our children?

People are terrified of their children being mistreated. The stories that we hear about trauma and suicide in children and youth convince us that we must always be found standing in our child’s corner, no matter the situation. But this thinking is false. Yes, we must defend our defenseless babies with everything we have…but as they grow, that’s not the job anymore. The job is to teach them how to defend themselves. Not only against others, but also against negativity in themselves.

Why does it seem like empathy in our youth is lacking?

I have an obvious answer to this, but it’s one that hasn’t made the headlines yet…and people don’t usually like it very much. We are rushing in so fast to protect our children from hurt, to make sure they don’t have to feel it. But how can we expect our youth to understand the pain of others, if they never have opportunity to feel their own pain? Empathy comes from experience. I’m not saying that we should cause our children pain, only that when they are experiencing it, we need to start coaching them through the methods used to cope with it, instead of taking it away or trying to solve it for them. Confidence isn’t built by doing something for someone. It’s built by teaching them to do something for themselves.

Why do we feel insulated and anonymous when we’re behind a computer screen?

Because to some extent, we are. We don’t have to see the reaction of the person we’re hurting. In cases of cyberbullying of bloggers or celebrities we pretend that we don’t even know they’ll see it. In cases of cyberbullying our friends, enemies or frenemies, we know they’ll see it, but we pretend we don’t care. After all, we’re just speaking our minds, right? Consider a love affair that is started by computer…we disclose more, we ask more, we share more. Again, the reaction of the other person isn’t seen, it’s only imagined and the picture becomes what we choose to see. In situations of cyberbullying, it’s like releasing the kraken. We want some damage to be done, but don’t want to do it in a hands on way. We imagine we’ve done what we set out to accomplish…just the right amount of damage, just the speaking of our minds, but once the kraken is out, we lose control of it. And when other people join in and let out their krakens, we create an online mobbing, a theft of worldly goodness. We introduce evil and pretend it got out of hand because of someone else.

Imagine a circle of ten people, with one in the middle. Each person on the outside of the circle says or does one thing, one bully action to the person in the middle. None of the people on the outside will consider themselves a bully. But the person in the middle, that’s a bullied person.

At No Such Thing as a Bully, it’s our desire to introduce the skills people need to make changes in their parenting, their communication styles and their empathy for others in a preventative way. We aim to show that there are ways to balance one’s own thinking, reach goals and create kindness in ourselves and others. This doesn’t take away from a person’s success. It adds to it, and it enhances the world.  We’re all in the world. Making the world a better place now, makes it better for our children later. Don’t kid yourself…this isn’t a job for schools. Or for children. It’s a job for all of us.

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P.S. Watch one of the very first No Such Thing as a Bully presentations here:

Awareness is nice, but action is better. – Kelly Karius

Contributor:  Kelly Karius, Author and No Such Thing As A Bully Team Member

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