During the past few weeks, strong anti-bullying messages have been circulating in an effort to end some of the the tragedies of student taking their own lives. Jonah is a 13-year-old boy with a disarming story. He tells his painful and often hard-to-watch journey in this video:
Perhaps I should have been stronger in my warning. As a parent of a child this age, Jonah’s plea is hard to watch. As a parent of a child who has been bullied, it is hard to watch. As a parent, I am just as lost as other parents about what to do to support a child when this happens. This insidious behavior can often leave our kids speechless - lacking the words to articulate and express what is going on. It may be their emotional, irritable or acting-out behavior that signals a problem. Thanks, Jonah, for putting words to what our kids are feeling.
As adults, we are just as perplexed about what to do when bullying happens in the workplace. The government introduced anti-bullying legislation in the workplace in Ontario 18 months ago and it has increased awareness about the problem, yet people are still unsure what to do if it happens to them, or if they see it happening to others. Bullying, in its simplest form, is one person being mean to another. It is an expression of an unmet need based in fear and characterized by threatening behavior.
I tell my kids that if they feel bullied, or if they witness behavior that appears to be bullying, they need to Speak Up, Speak Out and Speak Loud. They need to speak up to an adult or person of authority about the issue, speak out to the person mistreating them by creating boundaries around acceptable behaviors, and speak loud until they truly feel like they have been heard and the issue is being addressed by someone who can help. This isn’t always possible if children don’t feel safe in their school environment, and it isn’t possible if employees don’t feel safe in their work environment.
In addition to holding bullying behaviors to account, it is essential to understand what is at the core of the "bully’s" unmet need. This requires effective conversation and inquiry, which few of us have been trained to do. It is especially difficult when you are the parent of one of the children involved because it is such an emotional issue – staying calm and rational is not easy!
How have you navigated bullying behavior – either in your workplace or with your children? This is an issue that requires more conversation and an exchange of ideas. We’d like to hear yours… As parents, it is our responsibility to model impeccable behavior and perhaps we can do that by talking more about the issue.
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