You can't log onto a social media site or pick up a newspaper (adults swear to me that is still a thing) without reading horror stories about bullying. Or as I like to call it -- the Mean Girl Syndrome. But the news stories, blogs, YouTube videos and documentaries mostly seem to focus on stopping the bully. An admirable and much needed decree.
But I am going to throw out a thought that may seem a bit harsh: maybe instead of focusing so much on teaching kids to play nice we instead (or as well) teach kids to be resilient.
Now don't get me wrong -- we do need to keep up with the "have compassion for everyone and embrace our differences" education. In fact, let's start that goodness in the preschool sandbox. This love-one-another philosophy will stick with some kids, at the very least, surely making the world a better place for some. However, bullying has been going on for millions of years (I am not exaggerating for effect here, there was certainly bullies in the caveman days) and despite all our education and tweeting about it, bullying is just as big a deal as it was when our parents were on the playground. And their parents, and their parents... Sure, we are more aware of it now, thanks to Facebook and the 24-hour news cycle.
But we are also more aware of gluten intolerance and the escapades of the latest reality star. Awareness is great but all those horrible stories about kids suffering at the hands of their tormentors isn't doing much to slow down the mean girls. Maybe it is time to add to kid's "life survival" skills and show them how to find their own self confidence, embrace their uniqueness and hold their head high regardless of what gets thrown at them (literally or figuratively) in the hallways.
I have a sort-of popular YouTube channel and I have spoken of my own dealings with a bully. Maybe because of this, I hear from many kids and teens (and even some adults) that have felt the total agony of being picked on, humiliated, beaten and worse at the hands of bullies. The reasons for being targeted vary but the thought that the bullying would be less if only they were... prettier or stronger or more popular or smarter or richer or taller or just different is a regular theme.
Victims of bullying often feel alone and that they are the only person that has ever suffered. The sad reality is that everyone has felt the pain of being bullied at some point. I don't care who you are -- captain of the football team, Jennifer Lawrence or the guy that invented Nutella -- you have been made fun of at some point. Sure, being made fun every now and again isn't the same as being endlessly tormented day in and day out. But the coping skills are pretty much the same.
Let's teach confidence with our compassion. Bravery, resilience and pluck are good too. Let's show kids examples of their heroes who stood tall regardless of their circumstances. Let's point out people that took adversity and turned it into blessings. Share stories of our own struggles and what we learned we could have done now that we have the gift of hindsight. So often when people talk of the hell they went through the stories are just that -- the ugliness.
Please, can we try to find the silver lining. The stuff we learned about ourselves or the world in general. Too often it feels like kids aren't being taught their own self-worth. They accept what a mean girl says about them as truth. Never stopping to think "Wait, I know I am awesome!" Maybe if a bit of resilience slips into the situation we can have less pain. Less sadness. Maybe even less bullying. Because let's face it -- the last thing a bully likes is someone who doesn't play the victim.
Say it with me:
Let's all be awesome.
Or as our Lego hero, Emmet sings "Everything is awesome..." (that song is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day, sorry).