It's time to rethink our approach to bullying. Much of the advice we’ve been given is not only ineffective, but actually makes things worse. Here’s what we should be teaching our kids instead.
The warm fuzziness of the first few weeks of school is cooling and the strength of the "bullying will not be tolerated" lectures is waning. Come October, social hierarchies emerge and, too often, bullying begins. Low self-esteem, a bad day, months of anguish, suicide – the range of effects victims suffer is devastating. Parents, aware of the perennial pattern, hold their breath, hoping their child isn't targeted.
Bullying: It's been called a national epidemic and it's getting worse. It has been the focus of considerable attention lately as America looks at its widespread, even fatal, impact on youth. But more than media outcry, we need practical tools to combat bullying, empower children, and protect victims.
The problem is that much of the advice we were given when we were young is not only ineffective, it makes things worse.
It's time to rethink our approach.
Take, for example, those erroneous pearls of wisdom: "Just ignore them." Sure, there are times when doing nothing makes sense – for example, if the bully is older or you're in an unsupervised area – but overall, with repeated bullying, ignoring isn't an effective strategy. Bullying is about power, specifically the imbalance of power. If someone can silence you, that's pretty powerful.