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Posted by Philip on 6 April 2011, 7:30 am in , , ,

1005 things you need to know about bullying

Next Thursday 14 April Pink Shirt Day will bring to the fore bullying issues in schools. Part of this year's Day in NZ includes a letter writing campaign, which aims to present 1000 letters to Parliament, initiated by a group of activists from around the country, who met at the Wellington Outgames Human Rights Conference as part of a Queer Youth Caucus.

I've blogged about bullying a couple of times recently and I want to add five things that I think are really important to consider. These ideas are perhaps not part of the conversation yet and they may seem slightly provocative. They are designed to be — so please comment below and keep this important conversation going.

 

  1. There are no "bullies" and "bullied": Labelling people, especially young people, is counter-productive. Most people who are triggered into bullying behaviour have been taught through experience, ie. they've been bullied themselves. It stands to reason, then, that targets of bullying behaviour may repeat the pattern and be triggered to bully others.
  2. Punishing bullying is bullying itself: Adults in authority who punish bullies are being triggered into bullying behaviour because they don't know how else to deal with the situation. Bullying is a relationship conflict. It needs to be mediated neutrally and both parties need to learn new behaviours. Take the "R" (relationship) out of "friends" and you have "fiends" – resolving bullying is about replacing/repairing the relationship
  3. Bullying targets can stop the behaviour before it happens: As a disabled kid, I could easily have been bullied. I had conflicts but was never a target of bullying. On reflection I remember instinctively knowing I had to take charge of my relationships. I always introduced myself to other kids and asked the first question. Once, aged 11 or 12, when I fell out with a large Tongan friend of mine and he stood over me threateningly, I stamped on his foot. I remember waiting for him to thump me — instead he smiled, shook my hand and told me he respected my nerve. We remained friends for years after.
  4. Bullying is fear-based: Both triggers and targets are scared of losing power and control. Triggers want to keep them, targets believe the don't have them. Focusing on what people are scared of is the first step to resolving bullying.
  5. Bullying is sad not bad: One of the most disturbing things I've heard recently was other students blaming and being disparaging and judgmental about a bullying incident. We need to create a culture in all young people of concern, compassion and commitment to having difficult conversations about power and control. Stopping bullying is about community not individuals. It's about replacing fear with confidence. Only this understanding will change things.

Please do support Pink Shirt Day by visiting their website, buying and wearing t-shirts, and encouraging young people everywhere to write 1000 letters to Honorable Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development and Youth Affairs.

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