Bullying and Emotional Intelligence
As our children are back into the routine of their school schedule, we as parents, teachers, coaches, and educators have a responsibility of providing a safe learning environment for our students. Over 25% of students are being bullied everyday. Bullying in school has been in existence for as long as I can remember. I myself was bullied in middle school and remember the hurt, fear and frustration I felt from having to face these situations in a place where I was supposed to be learning. Looking back as an adult, I am able to take these life experiences and share them with my children on first how not to be a bully and secondly where the mindset of a bully comes from.
I often hear that bullying is on the rise. Quite frankly, there are just more opportunities for bullies to attack in today's world. With the Internet and social media as our societal norm, there is a whole new outlet for bullies to vent their frustrations in an attempt to hurt others based upon their own pain. This is in addition to school buses, classrooms, lunch rooms, recess, school bathrooms and sporting practices.
My mentor Jen Groover, taught me two very important things in regards to bullying. First and foremost, "hurt people, hurt people" and secondly just as important, "Emotional Intelligence can help eradicate bullying." While the study of Emotional Intelligence is a process that must be taught, why is it not taught in schools? We have put such a high emphasis on math and language arts, (both which I feel are important) but what good is all this push on academics when we as children, adults, society cannot effectively communicate with one another? Shouldn't we be teaching our children compassion, empathy, understanding what triggers us, learning how to live in a positive mindset, filling our minds with good thoughts and helping others in need as well as academics?
During my eleven-year old son's first week of sixth grade, I asked him how he liked middle school. He immediately told me that "the seventh and eighth graders are mean." He continued to tell me that in the halls, many of the older students were giving the middle finger to the sixth graders and saying "F*ck you, sixth graders" to the kids. Being that I have been training my son on Emotional Intelligence at home, I asked him why he thought the older kids were doing this. He gave me two responses. The first was that they probably experienced this on their own while they were in the sixth grade. Secondly he said that hurt people hurt people and that if they were happy people, they would not have acted that way.
I could not have responded better myself. Bullies aren't just kids at school, but adults as well. Sad to say, I still continue to experience bullying in my forties. Just look on any social media page and see how people write nasty comments about others they don't even know. People that are bullies have pain within themselves that they want to project onto others. Aside from pain, causes of bullying include wanting attention, jealousy of others, being bullied themselves, inability to regulate their emotions, the need to feel control, and the rewards they receive from being a bully, most often attention even if it is negative. Every one of the causes I listed can be dismissed if one learned how to be aware of their emotions and the emotions of others.
Quite often, the child bullies are reacting to what they are experiencing at home. Most often, they are learning these behaviors from their parents, siblings and friends. We must remember that as parents, our children don't do as they are told but rather what they see. Our actions on how we speak, resolve differences, watch on television, company that we keep, all directly affect our kids. This holds true for teachers and coaches as well. I have worked in enough classrooms and been to enough little league baseball games to see and hear how some of these "educators" belittle and talk down to their students and team, yet expect respect from them.
We must first exhibit compassion, empathy, forgiveness, respect to ourselves and others if we expect our children to do the same. Clearly none of us want to admit that we have a bully as a child, but these children exist and are learning it from somewhere. Bullies need to learn how to properly vent their emotions and understand why they feel the way they do.
The effects of bullying are detrimental to a child. It can lead to depression, isolation, anxiety disorders, aggression and even suicide. Many times the effects of bullying lead into adulthood. We must be aware of what is happening in our children's lives and keep an open communication in order to help those who are being bullied or are bullies themselves.
We must teach our children how to regulate and communicate their emotions. More importantly, we must listen to them when they are speaking to us. Sad to say, just telling our children to ignore it, stop it or having an assembly once or twice a year on bullying is not going to make it go away. Educating our teachers, parents, coaches, etc. on Emotional Intelligence and using these tools in school, home and on the field will in effect help our children live life as a child. Many schools have an Anti-Bullying initiative and while it is a great start, more needs to be done.
I get so disturbed when I hear people say that bullying is all a part of growing up. One just needs to toughen up or just ignore it. It is not that simple. We do not need a nation of bullies in the making. Being compassionate and empathetic is not being soft. It takes a strong minded individual to give compassion when needed, be empathetic to someone who disagrees with you and being confident enough to stand up for what is right in life. May we take the time to self reflect and understand our own emotions and help our kids do the same.
We need to provide safe and supportive environments for our children so they can grow to become compassionate, loving individuals. Learning Emotional Intelligence is the perfect way to start.
May all our children grow up in a nourishing environment, live in childlike wonder and have happy childhood memories to look back to.