If you tell a bully to stop bullying, it’s not going to work. Let me put this a different way; if you tell a hurt individual to stop externalizing their pain and taking it out on others, it’s not going to work. Plain and simple, current anti-bullying strategies are non-effective and redundant. We must find a better way.
Students have been hammered with anti-bullying messages since kindergarten. “Don’t bully,” “speak up to a trusted adult” and “don’t be a bystander” are three common phrases drilled into the minds of kids and teenagers everywhere. Although these slogans have the right idea, they’ve been so overused that they are old and cheesy. If bullying rates were decreasing, these anti-bullying lessons would be an easy solution. However, kids are still getting bullied. Clearly, the current trajectory of anti-bullying solutions needs to be revised.
As a student who grew up being taught every year not to be a bully, I can assure you that Roaring Fork High School still has bullies. Is that shocking to you? Probably not. Most people understand that simply telling a kid not to be mean is not going to prevent them from being mean. So why are we still wasting our time and resources on repetitive lessons that aren’t effective? We are desperately holding on to the hope that there isn’t a deeper issue. We are praying that this will be an easy fix. Unfortunately, most things worth fighting for are not an easy fix, our bullying problem included.
The most crucial question to ask ourselves is: why isn’t this working? The answer is really quite simple. Kindness is a conscious choice. Just like going to sleep early or not cheating on a math test, non-bullying is a choice a child has to make on their own. We can persuade and tell them what we recommend, but in the end, a child has to choose to not be a bully. So how do we help them make the right choice? Again, it really is a simple answer, but it involves a more complicated execution.
Over time we’ve learned that hurt people hurt people. Society pressures kids into bottling up their valid emotions and eventually taking them out on other innocent children. Furthermore, there is a clear link between kids who become bullies and kids who have mental health disorders. According to a 2012 study by Brown University professors, “Those who were considered the bullies were more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder.”
The answer to our bullying epidemic is to implement more mental health solutions in school, starting young, to prevent raising hurt children. Providing options like free therapy, counseling, or just giving advice to children could massively improve bullying statistics. Teaching children restorative justice and ways to deal with their emotions without violence is imperative to raising a healthy generation of kids. Luckily, our schools in the Roaring Fork Valley have started to implement some of these programs. Continuing to nurture our kids instead of hammering them with anti-bullying slogans will raise a generation that is consciously choosing to talk about their emotions and, in turn, choosing to be kind.