TEEN BOARDING SCHOOLS
My Son is a Bully Magnet
By Thomas Ring
Stone Mountain School Student Support Services
Every one of us has probably been affected by bullies in some way. It is, unfortunately, somewhat of a rite of passage to either be a bully or to be bullied at some point in our lives. This does not make it "right" or "necessary" but it is an occurrence that should be addressed without shame or guilt, only compassion. In our increasingly violent and confused society, turning a blind eye is not an option.
When your son comes home crying, upset that he has become the target of bullies, it elicits a gut reaction from the parent. We may feel that we failed to prepare our son in some way. Did we make him tough enough? That is a very flawed way of thinking as the reasons for bullying have little to do with the victim. Instead, we as a society need to look at what makes the bully. It is general feelings of inadequacy and failure on the part of the bully that frequently causes him to pick on someone. By making another feel bad, they think that they will somehow feel better about themselves. Bullies usually struggle with low self-esteem so they tend to attack other's self-esteem. That is really the essence of this problem.
Anything that we can do as parents, educators, or community members to boost our children's' self-esteem will do wonders on improving our society. The bully will not feel the pressing need to belittle a peer, and the "target" will have the self-confidence and skills to deflect the bully. A sense of humor is usually the logical next step. In fact, it is a well-placed joke that can often help diffuse a tense situation and is highly effective for dealing with bullies. Before that can happen, however, the self-confidence of both sides needs to be addressed.
Compassion is another underlining issue that needs to be looked at. It is a word that can have a variety of connotations and meanings but, at its essence, it is the ability to "put you in someone else's shoes". If more of us could do that, the world would be a much better place. The bully would feel his victim's pain, the victim, the bully's pain and the cycle would break. How can we get that across to our children/students?
In my experience, service projects to hospices and shelters are a great way to teach compassion and the beauty of giving. Community outreach programs to educate the school or community on wider issues are a great way to build self-confidence and self-reliance. Martial arts such as Tae-Kwon-Do or Karate are very effective at not only building self-confidence but also discipline. Both sides could learn from this. These are just a few possible solutions. The one thing that we absolutely can not do is nothing. "Boys will be boys" is simply not an acceptable excuse for bullying. Boys will become men if we show them how.