BULLYING: WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG? Pt. 2
Erick Kondo’s Victim Factoring is the idea that for non-random crimes and yes, bullying is now a crime; we can look at the Individual Factors that increase or decrease our chances of becoming a victim. If these factors are under our control, we have the ability to decide whether we want to alter them. Option one, we can Reduce Societal Risk or change the world we live in. Simply put, make it tough to be a bully. Florida Statute 1006.147, also known as The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act is the Florida Legislature’s response to the problem of bullying in all Florida public schools and is a very comprehensive law. An existing system, School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting (SESIR) is the method used to track the number of bullying incidences into a state database. Most legislative action focuses on the bully. Consequences include separating victim and bully, counseling, suspension, and expulsion. That requires a victim to tell on and/or testify against the accused bully. Even children know that nobody likes a tattle-tail. So we find a way to convince kids that telling on bullies is the right thing to do. Osceola High Schools have instituted a reporting program called “Speak Out” where defined bullying incidents can be reported anonymously through drop boxes and on-line. Bullies seek a positive return for their action whether it is social or personal. Our top-down legislative plan hopes that if faced with ostracization, conflict, or some other significant repercussion, the net-gain for their action is now gone. Now we have to assume that all bullies are afraid of consequences but that is just not the case. This type of legislation will only work if the bully cares about consequences. Whether a nation or an individual, some will construe weakness as opportunity and worry about consequences only if they get caught. Also, there are a percentage of kids out there that just don’t care about repercussions or don’t consider them at the time of the event. This brings us to option two of Kondo’s Victim Factoring. We can Reduce Personal Risk or change ourselves. Unfortunately, personal factors are a non-player in American Society. Everyone should be accepted for who they are even if they are different. Being different though, only presents the potential to be bullied but does not guarantee a child will suffer. The victim must be suitable or else the bully’s goals will not be realized. Personal and social skills now become the defining factors. The victim either allows the bullying to happen or will not have the social support network to fall back on once it does happen. So what can we do to reduce the Risk Factor of children falling into this category of low self-esteem and/or poor social skills? If we take different off the table simply because it is wrong to force kids to fit a pre-conceived concept of conformity, we are left with the child’s perception of self worth and more importantly, their innate nature.
As a martial art instructor, I have had the privilege of teaching children as young as four years of age for the last twenty years. One advantage I have over schoolteachers is that I can work with these children several times a week up until I send them off to college or into “the world”. What I have found is that children have a fairly developed personality type long before they start the formal education process. They can be shy, out-going, adventurous, timid, have a need for friends or a preference for solitude, industrious, lazy, physical or cerebral, concerned or indifferent, and all combinations thereof. While certain personality types are more prone to being bullied, no one is immune. Renowned Martial Art Instructor Keith Hafner wrote a wonderful book called “How to Build Rock Solid Kids”. I have used its ideas for years as a teaching tool to improve the lives of the children and teenagers I work with. Its first and most significant precept is to Create a Positive Outlook within your child or the children under your care. Young people commit suicide when they feel there is no hope or no reason to go on living. Children must become involved in something that gives them a positive return. Whether it is social or athletic, the activity should make them feel good about themselves. While the martial arts are for everybody, not everyone is for the martial arts. The same could be said about football, baseball, soccer, dance, or fill in the blank no matter how much the parent wants their child to enjoy it. Children must be taught social etiquette. They must learn how to shake hands, look someone in the eye while talking to them, how to walk and talk with confidence, and they must feel strong. I’m not talking push-up strong but the kind that comes from “ I like myself and my future and no one can take that from me” strong.
Regardless of how much legislation we implement though, schools and organized activities cannot do this alone. It will be the parent, not a teacher or a legislator who will determine if his or her six year old is welcome by everyone at IHOP. Parents must find programs specifically designed to develop the character and personal strength that their children must have in order to succeed in this world. It will be an up-hill battle on so many levels but our culture is changing. As a nation, we are becoming more tolerant of difference and less tolerant of what is now considered aberrant behavior. I do not believe we will ever stamp out bullying completely but can make it socially un-acceptable, un-rewarding, and most importantly, teach our kids to stand strong against it.