I wanted to share my perspective on bullying with you. I believe change can happen if we culturally begin to shift our long-term focus from first aid solutions for justice and begin to look at the root causes of bullying together with a commitment to educate the parents and educators in our children’s lives.
Our children learn through a process of observing what those around them are doing and mimic it. We call this modelling. Parents and educators do not teach a child how to roll over, sit up and come to stand as they develop movement which tells us that we (wo/man) have the ability to learn through experience and observation. Speaking even begins with hearing those around them and babies first words are the most important ones to them like mommy or daddy. Therefore the relationships they see around them are their sources for taking in information and learning.
As a parent myself and now sharing programs for educators and parents, what I know to be a commonly shared experience is in this statement, “We are not trained to be parents.” I would like to add we are not trained in the art of honest expression and skills of listening. Therefore it is my opinion that we aren’t developing healthy, understanding relationships.
Imagine for a moment a child who has met their own need for play together with a rushed parent who wants them to do something different from what they are doing, like go to bed. How does the parent phrase it and how does the child receive the information from their parent? Would the child hear what they are doing valued in any way? This step is usually overlooked by busy parents, yet imagine what’s going on for the child who’s needs are not being recognized as being separate from the parents and who isn’t able to express it yet.
As parents we may think children are demonstrating poor behavior when they are simply trying to demonstrate and express their needs. Parents and educators have power over children in our current culture. Power over simply means hierarchical. Think about our organizations, business and western world in general ~ hierarchical models.
We are teaching our children dominance through existing structures without including the development of skills for understanding their own behavioral process. Our culture lacks the speaking literacy for a developing child to understand and connect to what is being said in the way that they perceive information. We receive information through our senses of feeling, seeing, touching, tasting and hearing sounds. Now imagine hearing the use of feel in a sentence that does not accurately describe any feeling at all or misuses words to describe feelings. Some simple examples:
- I feel we need groceries. (Replace, I think instead of I feel)
- I feel you should go and play. (Replace, I think instead of I feel)
- I feel your brother needs to have a sleep. (Replace, I think instead of I feel)
- I am feeling unheard when you ignore me. (unheard is not a feeling, replace with sad)
- I feel safe when you don’t run ahead. (Safe is not a feeling, replace with calm)
These are common sentences in our relationships. Now imagine two or more people trying to have a conversation and not being able to connect. First without true use of feeling words there are no words that creates an empathetic understanding (true sensory awareness words that the other person can connect to with ease). Second, if there is not a common point of understanding such as a value that they can perceive without judgement, there will be confusion or they will take it personally resulting in a reaction. For example:
- Bullying is bad. (Replace with ~ I believe if we are not sharing our common needs for kindness, consideration and acceptance that our relationships will be violent.
- You’re a bully. ( Replace with ~ When I see you post pictures of bleach to Amanda’s RIP facebook pages, I feel rage and disbelief as I have a need for kindness and consideration for Amanda’s family and friends.
- We have a rule of no bullying. ~ We have a common need’s in our relationships for dialogue, listening, cooperation, consideration, understanding and have agreements for trying to meet these needs.
It is my perspective that by shifting our focus towards daily conversations that have individuals taking more personal responsibility for understanding their own reactive state it will shift the focus from taking it out on others in unconscious and habitual behaviors. For adults, it more difficult to learn after years of learning how to run away and protect themselves. For children, it’s easy. It will take the adults learning it and practicing it in order for children to change.
Therefore it is adults committing to learning what it is they want their children to learn first:
- How to express what is alive in them truthfully.
- To become aware that their child is meeting their own needs and that those needs are different from the adults and to shift into valuing those needs mutually, simply by acknowledging them. (Children do not want to be invisible and think about it: ~ adults discuss their process with their partner/friends, etc. who do children have to process it with ~ no one! Therefore imagine what is going on inside the child – isolation, feelings of being alone, not seen, not heard, not valued, not cared about)
- Value based communication and leadership
- Feelings literacy
- Needs/values literacy
- Listening Skills (listening without trying to fix it, without interruption and how to reflect back that the child sees that regardless, they are beautiful)
- Making concrete requests that have specifics that are doable – not vague.
Rather than talk about it, I hoped to give you some experience of what I believe is important for our culture of learning how to create kids that are mediators in the moment conflict first arises. Imagine a child being able to understand what is going inside themselves while at the same time understanding what is going on for the other person who’s behavior is violent. As soon as they have basic skills they will be able to identify that it is not about them at all and about what is going on in the person being violent. This is the shift we want. From there they will have choices in how they respond meeting their own needs and not that of the person being violent. It will affect the balance of the victim/bully and the bully will have no power over them.
Let’s keep the conversation going!