I've been tweeting lately (for those of you who follow me) about doing training at work on a bullying prevention program at school-The Olweus Program. It is a fantastic, research-based, program that addresses bullying head-on and works to stop it at its source. Our hope is that with the implementation of this program, our students (all of them) can begin to feel safer and more at ease in their school. Because after their homes, they spend more time here than anywhere else!
But bullying goes beyond the school years, doesn't it? I was one of those kids who was a victim. I can remember elementary school and being tormented by a girl who was bigger than me (they all were-I was a shrimp!) and who loved nothing more than name calling and put-downs. There was even one day she pulled my pony-tail so hard I fell to the ground, in an attempt to get me off "her" swing. She moved, thankfully, away from my school when we were in junior high. But it didn't fix the problem, because there were others. Students who teased me for my body shape. Teased me for my brains. Teased me for the activities I took part in and the ones I did not. By no means was school a place I felt unsafe, but I certainly never felt at ease. And to make matters worse, I never had the confidence to stand up for myself.
As an adult I am what you might call passive. When conflict arises, I will do anything to escape its path. Run. Hide. Laugh it off. Avoid. I think I have an allergy to conflict. I also think adult bullies sense this in me, and use it to their advantage. What I don't understand is why this exists in adult life. We abhor our children getting bullied, yet tolerate it in our workplace, our social circles, our families, even from strangers. I'm just tired of allowing my own actions empowering those who I allow to intimidate me. Yes, they are at fault for acting poorly, for not treating people with kindness and with respect. But at the same time, I allow it to continue by not standing up for my own well being. Does this mean I will begin to engage in conflict? No. (can't...I'll go into anaphylactic shock) But what I will do is to remain calm, give a minimal response to the bully, and simply walk away. Their behavior deserves no emotional reaction from those whom they are attempting to intimidate anyhow.
As an adult who works closely with adolescents, I believe it is my duty to model this type of behavior. Both to be a good citizen and treat each person I come into contact with, with respect and kindness; and to also treat myself with respect and kindness. This means no more cowering in fear from bullies and those who try to use their loud mouth, their attempts to talk over me, or their mean spirit to bruise my spirit. It is time to bring kindness back, and it starts with me.