I decided a few months ago that one of my life purposes was going to be to help in the fight against bullying, or bullycide. I spent half of my life in foster homes, and as a child was always the recipient of bullying. At least in those days it stayed at school since there was no internet, social media or texting. I have been trying to decide how this epidemic can be tackled, since the worst affected are public-school age youth. The answer seems to be in the very place it originates, in the schools.
Ellen DeGeneres stated that the education system needs to teach empathy. I agree wholeheartedly with this.
Providing support for those suffering through bullying seems to be the main platform for this issue. I feel this is putting the cart ahead of the horse. I believe we need to concentrate on tackling the bullying and heading off this problem at the source.
Today’s youth are bombarded with way more advertising and marketing than any other generation and the prime aim of marketing seems to be to make people feel they have some shortcoming that only so-and-so’s product can solve. The numbers of preteens, both male and female, concerned and unhappy with their physical appearance is both shocking and very sad. Even before they hit high school many young people have eating disorders. For my generation the death of Karen Carpenter was the shocking result of once being called fat by a heartless music reviewer. She took it to heart and this led to an eating disorder that eroded her health which eventually killed her. How many of these young people have an early death ahead of them just because of Advertising?? Or because they didn’t have effective role models or mentors who believed in them and built up their self esteem? Some designers are using real size models in their fashion shows. Some advertisers are using realistic models in their print ads and magazines. This is an absolutely Wonderful proactive action. And since the music industry has become so much about looks musicians are taking it upon themselves to be in the best shape of their lives. This can also be an inspiration for young listeners, since physical activity makes you feel good, not just look good. Wii bringing physical activity to video games was a great move. There are even a children’s show where physical activity is part of the show; the kids moving around is supposed to keep the main character energized.
The Psychology of It All
Psychology has proven that a certain percent of people repeat what they know; whatever unhealthy abuse they grew up with/currently experience at home. A certain percent of young people who bully are receiving some kind of abuse or neglect at home. Any child who bullies or acts out is telling you something; either there’s an issue at home or an issue with the individual. Schools are Such an important place and teaching is Such an important job; in my view every individual who works in such a place has taken on a Huge responsibility to help direct and protect our most important resource; the future. The reality is that some parents just can’t or aren’t able to do the job of parenting at home and this falls to our teachers as well.
I’d like to counter Ellen DeGeneres’s empathy in schools idea with self-esteem and confidence-building. This would help both the bully and the bully-ee. The person acting out could be too afraid to tell a teacher about their own issues, or just doesn’t know how to ask for help and is taking their anger out on an easy target. I TRULY believe that integrating self-esteem and confidence-building into education would have a HUGE impact on eradicating bullying. I’m still figuring out what format would be most effective and least contested by current-day school boards. School visits to talk about confidence and self-esteem seem the easiest option at this point. The only drawback is that positive vibes die out quickly if not reinforced. I will also shortly also act on my idea from years ago to make a website geared towards youth to help instill self-esteem and confidence in them.
Since youth aren’t the only ones with self-esteem and confidence issues hopefully this is the start of a whole new movement, a whole new era, where we start putting our fellow humans ahead of materialism, self-indulgence and appeasing our egos. Since reaching adults is much harder than reaching children, hopefully creating change in our youth will create change in adults; trickle-up theory?
My Anti-Motivational Rant
While looking for a picture for this post I saw some Very gruesome images: nooses, bruised, battered and bloodied faces, punches about to be thrown and kicks about to be disbursed. While writing this I was ignoring just how violent young people can be. Whenever an adult would consider an action to be assault I strongly feel that we need to treat young with the same seriousness. Even into late teens some are causing emergency room visits or even hospitalization without being punished in any way whatsoever. If they’re allowed to drive at 16, then why are they not considered to be responsible for their actions when assaulting another? I’m of the generation where belts and wooden spoons weren’t just to hold up pants or kitchen utensils. We survived those punishments. Society is now so freaking lax with any punishment for deserving behaviour, that a certain number of our young people have little or no respect for authority, their elders, themselves, or each other. The only solution I see for aggressive physical behaviour is legal action and self-esteem and empathy work while incarcerated (a group home or whatever setting the judge chooses). And I think ALL bullying incidents should result in required community service. Any infraction by anyone should result in community service. Oh, just thought of a great slogan: “If you’re going to act like an ass, you’re going to get the work of an ass.” (as in donkey) Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? ;)
Rant Done. Thank You
If you want to be part of this movement there are many ways, basically all under volunteering; Big Sisters/Big Brothers, volunteer at your local recreation center, volunteer for a homework tutor organization or the library – in Toronto many branches have homework tutor programs. Every city should have it’s own volunteer website. Toronto’s big ones are (http://www.volunteertoronto.ca) and (https://charityvillage.com/directories/volunteers/find-volunteer-listings.aspx) Charity Village is Canada wide. You’ll be surprised at all the places that use volunteers and have programs you aren’t aware of. YMCA has a lot going on that I didn’t know about until I perused their site one day. There’s a lot you can do in your own back yard as well. Perhaps there’s a single mother in your area or building who could really use some babysitting help. Or maybe just play basketball with the local kids, any exposure to another role model is a great thing for young people. I watched the movie ‘Unconditional’ about Papa Joe (Joe Bradford) who lives in Nashville. He has been a father figure to many fatherless children in his neighbourhood and also distributes food to needy families. We all have the ability to be a Papa Joe.
I wholeheartedly support volunteering. When young people partake in volunteering it helps them see a bigger picture of the world, gives them responsibility and confidence and also lets them see that some people aren’t as well off as they are. This pretty well goes for adults too. And there is no feeling comparable to helping others and giving freely of your own time. The appreciation you get back is very rewarding. To me this is a requirement to a balanced life. Keep yourself happy and ‘the small stuff’ will just disappear :)