Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Do Bullies Know They Are Bullies?

Wednesday April 10th is Anti-Bullying Day or some such thing. The intent, I think, is to raise awareness of an issue that is as old as humans. Because humans can be real jerks, you know?

The kids were talking about it at breakfast today since Jack's class is participating in a flash mob this afternoon. I am also currently reading, for the second time, "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult and said out loud,

"I wonder if bullies know that they are bullies?"

Both boys looked at me like deer in the headlights.  Oh dear, here she goes on another one of her rants....

In the book, a 17 year old boy, does the unthinkable and goes on a shooting rampage in his school.  He was also the object of much torment on a daily basis (from his older brother among many others).  I don't condone what he did but I do think a lot about what nobody else did before this happened.

No one stopped or even tried to stop the humiliation that went on daily for this poor kid.

This is a fictional book, but let's be honest, we all know of or were someone who was treated the same way. In grade 11, I moved to a small town and saw this first hand.  And saw teachers who either didn't see it, ignored it, or basically participated in it.

It made me sick, and still does.  But I did what every coward does, I ignored it. I hope I never laughed, I certainly never found it funny.  I wish I would have had the courage to stand up and say what I really thought. I can say it now, but it is way too little, way too late.

"Stop, you jerk.  You are not funny and it's actually quite sad how little you think of  yourself.  Only people who have no self esteem themselves need to belittle others to make themselves feel better."

I am also very certain that I exhibited some pretty mean behaviour over the years and pretty sure that at the time, I didn't much care if I was being mean or not. Hopefully I learned from my mistakes but I am still in the learning process so....

My point, and I do have one, I think, is that Anti-Bullying day is great and wonderful but does it serve any purpose?  Do kids or adults who exhibit bully-like behaviour recognize that about themselves? Do they know they are a bully?

I sincerely doubt it.  And if they do, do they really care? I think by definition, a bully is someone who lacks compassion for others or they wouldn't be a bully in the first place, would they?

I wonder if wearing pink. making posters and dancing in a flash mob with your class will really has any impact at all on reducing this kind of behaviour.

My theory is that the fault lies in what we are teaching our children.  Justifying their behaviour with comments like, "Oh he's just being a boy" or "They are just having a little fun" are likely the real problem.

I am big believer in ensuring our boys see the consequences to their actions.  Hurting someone else is never okay especially where that was the intention.

The story, "Nineteen Minutes", is told from the perspective of the kids and parents of those who were shot as well as the boy who did the shooting and his parents.

I don't want to be the parent of either of those kids because both are equally heartbreaking.

During the trial, the boy who did the shooting makes an astute observation after hearing one of the boys who tormented him for years claim under oath, after being shot and seeing his friends die, that he was just having fun when he did all those horrid things to the shooter. 

He observed how little things had changed despite how much things had changed.

How poignant.  And I think it proves my point.  Yes, I know the book is fiction but I happen to think it's pretty dead on reality.  If getting shot isn't enough to make a bully recognize he's a bully, then a little pink and some posters sure as hell ain't gonna.

Don't get me wrong, awareness is a good thing,  I just don't think it's enough.


Anonymous said...

A really interesting and thought-provoking post, Kami.
I'm not sure what the answer is. I think some bullies DO know that they are bullies. You know, the ones who grow up to be sociopaths or murderers. Yeah, I think they know that their behaviour is not acceptable - they do it anyway.
But there must be a group of bullies who don't realise that they are doing anything wrong. Maybe the ones who deep down have really low self-esteem and feel like they have to put others down to make themselves feel better. Perhaps it's a coping mechanism? Not to say it's the right coping mechanism, but maybe they are in so much inner pain that they fail to see what pain they are causing others.
I think it's a tricky subject. I do sometimes try to put myself in the shoes of the bully's parents. How hard it must be for them (the ones who care, that is). Maybe just as hard as it is for the parents of the child being bullied? All I can say is I am 100% in favour of "Zero Tolerance" policies toward bullying. I think that's the only way to go.

Angella said...

Hmmm. Interesting. Our anti-bullying day was in February, and it was pretty amazing. Half of the town, including police officers, etc., converged on Main street for a rally.

While I don't know if it helps the bullies, per se, it educates all of the other kids about what is and what is not acceptable behavior, and empowers them. At least here in Summerland, it seems. :)

Mrs. Wilson said...

I think you're dead on. My girls are participating in anti-bullying day today, too, and I'm wondering if it is enough? I know it isn't. When I point out bullying behaviour in my girls, they are SHOCKED. They CAN'T be a bully! No, but you are practising bullying behaviour, and it is NOT ok.

And yes, I agree, a lack of compassion is exactly what the problem is. Also? This whole LOOK OUT FOR NUMBER ONE shit that is being preached everywhere. If everyone started looking out for OTHERS instead of themselves, we wouldn't have to worry about bullying, now would we?!

Elaine Alguire said...

I don't know, I guess I am "pro" anything that brings things like this to light but I do know what you mean.

And of course, it does start at home, not with special "days" for these kinds of things. If only every home was like yours, Kami.