How a Mindset of Fear Contributes to Bullying
How Teaching Initiative can Decrease Bullying
Posted May 6, 2013
In the past, I have run across posts such as this one by Dr. Kaufman on psychology today about how those who choose to engage in "bad" behavior, seem to experience more prosperity than others. I now believe I have an answer to that question.
The answer is courage. Trouble makers, wrong doers, jerks, (pick your label) by coincidence exercise more courage than most people. I use the term, coincidence, because most of these types of people don't set out to be courageous. However, their disregard for following the norm, usually comes from a place of anger towards others and society in general. In some cases, people who resort to some type of rebellion never anticipate that they will be placed into some type of leadership role or achieve any measure of success.
Most of us have been raised to only be obedient, with any notion of independent thinking and taking any measure of initiative frowned upon. So we follow rules and protocols with the expectation that we will be rewarded for being good. This is why the strategy of empowering kids who have struggled to cope with being bullied works. The best part of empowering these kids is that they don't have to become bullies to stand up for themselves, and bring their experiences with bullying to an end.
One thing I have learned from working with children and teens who have struggled with bullying, is that they are all easily overwhelmed with fear. They are afraid of getting hurt, they are afraid of not being liked, and their list of fears are usually lengthy. The truth is that fear is an important feeling to experience, but it is not healthy to be obsessed with fear. It appears that these kids have come to believe that they should never experience any type of discomfort in their lives. Those who have thoroughly bought into this concept, believe strictly in following a protocol on how to live their lives in exchange for being rewarded with things going their way.
You need not look to far from where they picked up this idea than the adults in their lives. Adults who believe in following through with strict rules in their lives in exchange for their concept of an easy life, become poor role models for the youth in their lives when it comes to setting good examples for dealing with things not going a person's way.
Inevitably, there will be a situation in which we will all be challenged, and taking on that challenge would be a risky necessity. In environments where taking initiative is not taught or encouraged, bullying thrives. Inevitably there will be a few kids who don't care about the rules, due to complicated circumstances in their lives, and they will seek out and terrorize a classmate who is most overwhelmed by fear.
In my work with these kids who have been bullied, I acknowledge their fears and bring them to accept the reality that doing the right thing doesn't always shield you from bad things happening, and instead they should do the right thing out of respect for others. Then I teach them about taking initiative, through techniques like verbal judo and following through with sensible actions in spite of their intense feelings of fear. It works.
For parents and teachers concerned about bullying a good question to ask yourself is this,
"When is the last time you took a risk in practicing initiative?"
Giving into fear is not a good thing to teach our children. Inevitably they will be faced with circumstances were the convenience of calling on some type of authority to fix the situation will not be feasible.
All thoughts, feelings, agreements and disagreements to this post are most welcome.