Today the East York Mirror (a free weekly newspaper for the little pocket of Toronto where I live) published a piece on bullying under the title "Parents play a key role in mediation".
The article describes how the mother of a "mercilessly" bullied 10-year-old boy did everything she could to work with the school to solve the problem but that eventually she pulled her son out of public school and sent him to a private school.
Apparently her attempts to work with the school and the other parents were not accepted, as the parents of the other children refused to participate. I was pleased to see that a representative of the school board, someone described as "a gender-based violence prevention co-ordinator", was quoted as saying, "That's sad, because the support for the perpetrator is as important as the support for the victim--perhaps even more so."
Friends, let's get very clear about bullies. A person acting as a bully is a scared, lonely, hurting, sad, insecure and immature person, no matter their age. All the rules and interventions and education in the world are not going to stop the bully because bullying is not a behaviour problem: it's a relationship problem.
Bullying is not a behaviour problem: it's a relationship problem.
And it's not about the bully's relationship with the victim--it's about the bully's relationship with him or her SELF. A confident young person who is in total integrity with his or her self will never act as a bully. That's because we act on the outside the way we feel on the inside. A sad and broken person knows only how to create more sadness and brokenness.
Certainly, both the victim and the bully need support and counselling, and so do their parents. Their parents need to learn how to empower their children with confidence and integrity. The school cannot truly solve the problem, but they can be instrumental in providing the assistance. Perhaps there have to be sanctions in place to force parents to get involved in a committed and serious way--long term suspensions of their child unless the parent complies, or a fine or even the threat of removing the child from the home. It's sad that taking responsibility would have to be mandated, but the current system is clearly not working.
Maybe a proactive approach would be that all children in Kindergarten and Grade 1, along with their parents, would be required to attend workshops that teach confidence building, conflict resolution skills and self-awareness. We can't blame parents for not teaching these skills at home when they might not even know how! The school system could be instrumental in solving the bully-victim paradigm by mandating participation, and all children and their parents would benefit. Attendance at a series of workshops is a pretty small price to pay for 13 years of schooling, no?
I've prepared a FREE AUDIO that addresses this topic, which will soon be available on my new website, www.canadianunschooler.com. (It's not up and running yet, as my web designer is still putting on the final touches.) To make sure you don't miss out on my free offers, you can LIKE my new Facebook page: CanadianUnschooler. (Eventually, the Jazzy Mama blog will cease to exist, but I hope to better serve my readers on the topics of Homeschooling and Unschooling over at my new site. See you there in about a month!)