Learning to cope with bullying and cyber-bullying

Sadly too many are ending their lives as a reaction/response (what’s the difference?) to bullying. This includes an adult politician here in Ireland. What is happening when someone is bullied? Ok there can be physical assaults but here I am more interested in the verbal and written comments that wound. The question needs to be asked, why do they wound? why do we let them affect us in this way? It’s because we are sensitive to other peoples’ comments. Why do we give such people such power over us? Can we cope by realising their comments are saying more about the abusers themselves than about the intended victim?

Surely an issue to be dealt with is why we give so much importance to people’s comments. It’s the great parenting authority Naomi Aldort who got me thinking along these lines in her book Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. From early childhood well intentioned parents may praise their children. At this moment other peoples’ approval is now significant, too significant. When a child brings their first drawings and paintings to an adult that adult often gives in to the temptation to make comments. Why do they need to comment? They shouldn’t need to. The child doesn’t need them to comment but when they do, the child feels insecure as their work, their drawing no longer has validity of itself but only in reference to someone else’s opinion. We have now disempowered that child and shown them how to feel insecure.

In her book, Aldort explains when her child went to playschool, the teacher was surprised that Naomi’s son wasn’t bothered, totally ignored, the teacher’s comment on his painting. “He’s the first child to take no heed of my opinion,” the expert educator whined. Does Naomi’s boy sound like someone who will succumb to other peoples’ comments on a social networking site? I don’t think so. He knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it and it has nothing to do with anybody else. Self-assured without ego.

You see how praise is a problem? After all, it is the other side of the coin to criticism. They are unhelpful, unnecessary bedfellows. When a child has learned to act and think according to another’s approval, praise, criticism or opinion, it’s only a few years until peer pressure has the same influence as the parents and teacher but now it can have a more harmful influence.

Add to the problem of praise the harmful notion of reward and we now have a double influence, “If you do this I’ll give you…” which might be harmless enough but one day the wrong person might use the same technique…

The next time a child brings a picture to you and asks, “What do you think?” it’s probably better to describe the picture than to make comments or give an opinion – because in doing so you are making a judgement. It’s what they think that matters.

As well as her book, Naomi freely shares some ideas along these lines in her articles.

For ideas on suicide visit Prof David Lester’s website: http://www.drdavidlester.net/

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