Is Bullying …the Cause or Effect? A Community Responsibility and Privilege

Bullying- Cause or Effect?

(Where do we go from here?)


  1. We need to begin to embrace and model a compassionate presence inside our homes and classrooms.  A healthy school culture is where we prepare “by standers” for the bullying …to feel safe and secure in reporting and addressing what they see.  


  1. Teachers are the second most significant adult in a child’s life and sometimes the most important because on average, students spend more time in school than at home and so the KEY to any child or adolescent’s well-being is envisioning and noticing the value inside each and every one!   This is difficult to do in this time in education with the contrast of changes alongside newly mandated educator evaluations, increasing amounts of standardize testing and schools reportedly under performing. There is much pressure on everyone in the community because we have a national crisis. This crisis is the prevalence of depression, anxiety and chronic stress reported inside our young people’s lives.  This crisis is pernicious and insidious because it is hard to see and detect.



  1. We need to understand deeply that the discussion of raising test scores and competing globally with the results of student growth ONLY is secondary to the emotional and social lives of our children and adolescents… When we attend to the emotional and social lives of our students, only then we will see higher test scores, engaged and high performing, peace-filled and curious teachers and students.

The incidence of bullying is probably much higher than reported, and now more than ever, we have to begin personalizing education, because when emotional and social growth goes up… so does achievement!


How do we as a community, address bullying?


  1. 1.       It will take the eternal vigilance of every adult.


  1. 2.       “If you see or suspect something, say something!”


  1. 3.       Bullying has become a cyberspace pandemic!  It feels much safer to hide behind a screen and lash out at people. But what happens?  The comments, words and thoughts build up and the release is reactive, impulsive, unthinkable, and causes great suffering that often times takes years to heal and recover from!   Talk to your students about social media and the safe way to communicate, alongside the power of words and their long term effects on self-esteem.  


  1. 4.       Number one reason for bullying in this time… children and adolescents are singularly focused on “differences” Anything that looks and feels different, we tend to fear! Fear and anger are never isolated emotions. Can we assist our students and children to continually see and focus on commonalities rather than our differences? Important to discuss this topic weekly if not daily. 


       5. We discuss constantly… we find the how the child is spending time? Who are their peers? What are their activities? Do they feel they have the resources to deal with this? What are the child’s strengths? What are their passions? What are their interests?

       6.  We ask: “What do you need? How can I help? What more can I do? How can you help me to better understand this?


     7.  We being as teachers and parents to focus on our commonalities- WE TEACH AND MODEL EMPATHY because every human being wants to feel more hopeful, better, and capable.   (What unites us rather than what separates us) between me and we, us and them.   We begin the practice of “perspective –taking “because when we choose a different perspective, we are then able to empathize and our brains are hard-wired for this emotional skill. Empathy is an antidote for prejudice.

  8. Never never  never call a child out in front of their peers. It is crucial that we respect the growing minds and hearts of our older children and adolescents and talk to them privately with matters of concern.  

9.  Form a collaborative community inside of classrooms where discussions happen either in a worry box, small group, or built into a morning meeting agenda.

10. Discuss and create team building activities all the time.  Cultivating positive emotion brings clarity of thought, enhanced memory, strengthened immune system and broadened perspectives. We cannot afford to not hold these discussions in our homes and schools.  

A compassionate presence is a necessary facet inside education today. When we begin to feel deeply for another, the first person to benefit is you! Compassion is a true source of happiness…This automatically puts the mind at ease, helps remove fears and insecurities and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacle we encounter. Are we listening to respond or are we listening to understand?


Bullying is a symptom, and a crucial call for all of us to reappraise where children and adults alike are placing their values, thoughts, feelings and energy in a time of global and educational reform. 


What to share with parents!


  1. Never ever compare your child with someone else’s child… it is ingested in very personal and negative ways
  2.  Leave post it notes everywhere with affirmations…
  3. Apologize when you need to…
  4. Ask, what do you need? How can I help? What do you need from me? How can I make this easier? How do you feel? …, but not right after school, spend some time in the late evening with a cup of coffee and clear mind ready to talk as this is your child’s time for reflection when they are more awakened and reflective about their day!
  5. Everyday share a strength and talent with your child and teen and affirm and play these out in any way!
  6. Worry Boxes


What to share with students!


  1. Peers you can trust are gold nuggets
  2. Older students who can listen and mentor are the perfect fit!
  3. Develop a relationship with a young adult or older teen who  you can reach out to in all times
  4. Write out your thoughts and feelings and keep a journal for an imaginary friend. The most important relationship you can ever have is one with yourself… find ways to satisfy your needs creating time and space with people who support and uplift you
  5. Exercise- hugely important!  We will discuss this facet of healthy behaviors and overall well-being.


 Final Thoughts


If you are wondering about the prevalence of stress and depression levels in children and teens across our country, take a hard look at the bullying incidents and discussions that are circulating in every district, neighborhood and state around the country. Friend and educator Michael McKnight from Cape May, N.J., expressed these thoughts to me: “I have found myself moving toward a different understanding of bullying behavior that is deeper than the current debate that is being discussed everywhere. It is real ….. But as I look at our culture it affects more than just our children ….. Aren’t these very behaviors active and alive inside an adult culture that emphasizes power-over, control, coercion, rank, and privilege? Why wouldn’t kids act on what they are embedded in?”


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