6 insights to support your efforts
By Sr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM, EdD
- Mean behavior and bullying are two separate issues! Bullying is the deliberate and often repeated attempt to intimidate, embarrass, or harm another person. At its core, it involves the abuse of power.
- Bullies pick on others physically or through verbal threats, insults, name-calling, mean emails, cyberspace disrespect, or systematically ignoring someone. Usually bullies suffer from poor self-esteem or have been mistreated themselves, so they retaliate against innocent victims out of anger or frustration, or in an attempt to command the respect that they do not receive naturally.
- Personal power, self-control, and self-respect are God-given needs planted in our souls. As early as the “terrible twos,” children show the desire to be self-reliant. When self-reliance is developed, children grow independent and cooperative and are able to appreciate others and let others be different from them. If autonomy is not fostered, children either accept powerlessness or grow angry and frustrated, often trying to hurt others the way they themselves have been hurt. Their anger gets directed at innocent others.
- Bullies make targets of children who are smaller, weaker, or shy, or they pick on students who receive recognition for their grades, looks, or achievements. In other words, a bully’s anger, negative self-esteem, and self-hatred does not discriminate. Victims may vary.
- Bullies and victims are two of three kinds of students who are hurt by bullying behaviors. Bystanders are also hurt. They end up aiding the bully by omitting the good that they know to do, committing the bad that the bully initiates, standing by, looking away or overlooking, actively encouraging the bully, or ignoring injustice. Instead, children should be formed in the ways of discipleship — a countercultural exercise! A disciple hears the voice of Jesus, understands his message of love, and puts love into action in the particular circumstances of the moment. A disciple is an active witness who stands up for peers, speaks out against injustice and cruel acts, and does not condone or tolerate cruel behavior. Defending the defenseless is countercultural.
- Practices that foster a healthy sense of autonomy and activate self-reliance include doing nothing for children that they are capable of doing independently; emphasizing effort more than results; supervising without intrusion; expecting accountability for choices and consequences; providing age-appropriate choices and responsible independence; encouraging respectful assertiveness; modeling self-control; focusing on Jesus and his Gospel of justice, redemption, and second chances; and de-escalating family tensions by applying patience and humor.
Sr. Patricia McCormack, IHM, EdD, is an international consultant and public speaker on issues of whole-person formation.
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