I've been thinking a lot about bullying lately. First there was the rash of teen bullying that led to six suicides in the last few weeks. But I've also been thinking about how common bullying is in all segments of society, even among adults, and what we can do about it personally.
My older son has been in this strange bullying cycle with some kids at school for the past few years. There's one ringleader who seems to have a strange psychological hold on the other boys (there are 4 or 5 others, including my son) wo calls the dance. The ringleader decides who he likes that day based on who will do what he says, and then they harrass the other kids. So it's this shifting cycle of bullying and being bullied, and it makes recess both an adrenaline rush and a minefield.
For the past few weeks, my son hads been talking himself through how he's going to resist and stand up to the ringleader. His dad and I have been comparing notes, and our son has been talking about it with both of us, broad strategies and rehearsing the things he's going to say.
I don't know if he's going to be able to break completely free right away, but what I do know is that bullying only really works when the bully convinces the victim that the bully's point of view is the right one. So just by talking about it with our son, we're giving him some perspective to figure out what he's going to do.
My best friend was being bullied by her boyfriend, who was making her think his behavior was normal. Once she started talking about it and realized it wasn't, she broke up with him. Another good friend of mine, a teacher, is being bullied at work by the administrators of her school. She, also, did not realize how wrong the situation was and how unethical (and probably illegal) her administrators' behavior was until she started talking about what was happening and we all freaked out about the abuse.
I am hoping that the conversations lots of us are having about the teen suicides can translate into conversations about bullying in general. I know I talked about it with my son this morning. And in our conversations about his dealing with his bully we've also talked about how not to bully other people and what to do with feelings that you might need to show power over someone else.
I don't have any concrete strategies except to shine a light on bad behavior. Even if the abuser doesn't stop, the person being abused at least knows it's not right and not their fault.