Bullying and Mixed Messages
Working with young people for most of my adult life, you happen to encounter quite a large amount of bullying done by all types. Here's the thing, most of us do it! It's a shocking thought but its true? And before you get all high and mighty hear me out.
We always assume that the bully is that one oversized kid who comes from an abusive home. That may be the case at times, but we are learning that bullies come in all shapes and sizes. We are also learning that bullying is done on a part time basis. We might have one bully who picks on someone, but everyone else will join in with a few jabs or most people might keep their heads down unless they want to be a victim as well. We have also learned that some people might bully one person in one place and not bully anyone else.
For example, I have walked into a department store and I have witnessed grown adults berate customer service workers. I have witnessed people jabbing fingers at waitstaff and call them all kinds of names. I have seen grown adults belittle homeless people. I have been a victim of and have witnessed various forms of police brutality. I have seen this sort of stuff being done in front of children.
I find it counterproductive to tell children that bullying is wrong when we do it every day. We see politicians doing it. We see comedians doing it. We see pundits doing it. We hear religious leaders do it on Sundays. We can go on and on. Some might argue, "well that's different..." It isn't. Ridiculing, berating, or excluding someone for no reason is all bullying. We won't tolerate it in our schools with our children but we let it slide all the time.
Remember, children pick up our cues. So if they see or hear us cussing out a customer service representative or skip someone in line, they will assume that what we tell them is nonsense. I love it when the children I work with throw that back at us. And they should do that. They should challenge us to stick to what we say.
So before you plan on stomping down to your local supermarket and going off, think about it.