Natural born bullies


The media attention given recently to the phenomenon of bullying in schools, is truly a cause for celebration. Finally our world has begun to take seriously the plight of children: the most powerless sector of the community. Initiatives underway in schools are designed to intervene by identifying bullies and their victims, and then providing counselling and education in more effective social skills. Programs have been developed to teach school bullies alternative behaviours, impulse control, conflict resolution and negotiation skills. The victims of bullying are offered support, protection, and trained in assertiveness wherever practicable.

Though this allopathic approach may yield some benefits, the problem with it is that it’s only a partial solution. If in our attempts to eliminate violence from schools, we narrow our focus to treating the bully, we might be presuming that he or she is the “bad child”: sole originator of the violence. It is all too easy and very tempting to blame bullies for their bullying behaviour. We single them out, brand them as “behavioural problem child”, or perhaps attention deficit child. The odds are that someone in a laboratory somewhere is trying to isolate a “bullying” gene. I can’t help wondering if, somewhere, there is a pharmaceutical company searching for a biochemical cause of bullying: “wait till our shareholders hear we have developed a pacifying drug for bully-children!”

When we ask a child who is hurting to bear all of the responsibility for their aggressive behaviour, we have in a way retaliated by bullying the bully. This in fact adds up to ignoring that a bully is in pain, they have been hurt in some way and are acting out their hurt on others. The truth is that violence does not sprout from within individuals, it is a symptom of families that are hurting, perhaps with members that are hurting each other.

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