the world runs on authority, on force. The army, the police, schools, corporate hierarchies, parenting, parenting, parenting. Family structure. Punishment and discipline is a system by where we control unwanted behaviour by force, and punishment, which, punishment is defined as dishing out unpleasantness to the misbehavers in order to motivate them to change their ways.
This is pretty much a definition of bullying. The bully punishes the victim. The bully justifies this punishment by listing the victims’ misbehaviours, or the victims’ family’s, or race’s, or faith’s misbehaviours.
This is punishing behaviour, this is bullies doing what their parents did, doing what the police do, I mean the bully’s behavior is VERY CLOSE to that, closer than any of us would like to think. I’m saying the bully feels he is doing what he sees around him, that in the parlance of some schools of psychology, the bully is getting his power back, after some authority figure has taken his power from him.
So, parents, schools going to the bully kids and telling them to stop is a joke to these kids. They see it as just more ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ So do I, for that matter. I, for one, would love to see someone ask the kids if I’m right about that. Don’t take my word for it. Ask the kids.
Parents don’t think they are bullying. We have a consensus about what is acceptable punishing behavior, and we really cannot seem to draw parallels with our legitimate punishments and other similar behaviours. If we can’t, if we won’t see how bullying is an extension, an extrapolation of our punishing ways, then there is very little hope that any of our conversation about bullying, any of our attempts to combat it will get any traction, very little hope of our ever solving a problem if we refuse to understand it in the first place. Surely, someone has noticed that speeches that don’t acknowledge this difficult truth have not had any dramatic effect on the bullying phenomenon? I think any approach that doesn’t include this idea would be considered empty and hopeless, at least to any group that lives under threat or reality of punishment – like our kids.
Long and short, if we don’t stop ‘bullying’ our kids at home, we will never stop their bullying, that should be obvious. I don’t know why it isn’t.
Many nations have outlawed corporal punishment, in Canada, we are in the process of outlawing it, and I can see the next step, that we will someday realize that the damage caused by punishing behaviours generally outweigh any benefit, and when we all stop anything like bullying, so will our kids. Until then, we will fight this bullying thing in vain, fighting it in the schools, and causing it at home.
So now, there are programs, task forces, plans and research, all government money spent to figure out this embarrassing problem, and if we don’t try to stop people from the use of punishment – corporal and otherwise – on our kids at home, we are wasting all those resources. And that is a sad, cruel joke, one that the parents don’t understand, and only our kids are laughing about. Not in a good way.