Bullying doesn’t stop with childhood, it only gets worse. Those who are successful bullies as children grow up to be bully-bosses or power-hungry politicians. They seek out and acquire power. We, in turn, admire and respect that power – that is as long as it is being used against our enemies, supports one of our causes, or we can convince ourselves that some good is coming from it. We only complain about it when that bullying power is used against us. Until we understand that power seekers are the most desperate people on the planet the problem will persist.
While I believe that anti-bullying programs are good, as a society we are talking out of two sides of our mouths. Because of that, I don’t believe that bullying is going to go away. Most anti-bullying programs ask kids not to bully, not to be a consenting bystander, and to tell on bullies when they witness an attack. These are not realistic expectations in a society where most people fear the recrimination of their peers.
These programs also teach children to avoid bullies at all costs, which doesn’t really serve the victim in the long run. A better solution is to teach children how to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. When we teach kids how to believe in themselves, we give them the fundamental tools they need to stand up to bullies.
I am frequently invited to make “Author Visits” to elementary schools. I explain to the children the weaknesses of bullies (in brief, that they lack self-esteem and seek approval through their bullying), so that potential victims know they have power over the bully. I then give them two simple techniques to use in the event of an attack (one for verbal attacks and one for physical attacks). Both are easy to remember, so that a child, caught unaware by a bully attack, is less likely to panic and show fear.