Okay, I admit it, I was pretty much of a chump as a kid. You'll agree with me if you read my last post. To recap, I didn't do a darn thing when our neighborhood bully persuaded her minions to exclude her enemy of the day. Yep, like everyone else, I played merrily along with the group, ignoring the poor tormented soul. I was just glad it wasn't me. It never occurred to me to question The Rachel about her motivations toward her victims. Because I knew if I did, I would be next kid to be peering out my boring bedroom window at the fun in the streets below.
Chump that I was, I had plenty of company. Today we're called bystanders--those who in one way or another, encourage bad behavior from bullies. In Barbara Coloroso's article "Bully, Bullied, Bystander...and Beyond", it is common for bystanders to not speak up in order to fit into the group. They often admire the bully because of the rewards he/she receives such as laughs and applause. The bully's elevated status can lead to more daring acts against the victim, which in turn encourages the bystanders to copy her attacks against the victim. Over time, the bully and the minions develop a "group think" mentality and the individual's accountability is lessened.
Research shows that the bystander can have a great effect on bullying. According to Coloroso, adults need to encourage the bystander to become an informer and ultimately a defender of the victim. The bystander must be willing to take the risk in order to stand up to the bully and help the targets.
Okay, this all sounds fine and dandy. In a perfect world, all teachers and parents would encourage children to stand up for the little guy. But does this really happen? I venture to say many parents have told their children to defend a bullied friend. But what about the invetable "loser" in your kid's class? Are we really going to tell our child to go against the grain and defend her? Those of you that say "of course" think again. Would you really? Or would you silently be grateful your child wasn't the pariah and simply tell her not to join in the antics? After all, we all want to protect our children. Telling them to jump in front of a firing squad victim goes against our Mama Bear nature.
Is it possible for all of us to take a personal risk in order to help the poor souls whose trauma will probably extend into adulthood if the bullying is not stopped? I hope so. If we can stop "bear hugging" our children and stand back a bit, we'll probably see that their role as a bystander isn't doing them any good either. If we want our daughters to become strong, confident women, we need to teach them to stand up to the "Rachels" of the world (and be willing to take the lumps). If we don't, they will simply become one of the minions in their adult lives, ready to follow the orders of the office bully, possibly endangering their job and definitely contributing to a nasty work environment. We'll explore the role of an adult woman bystander or "Middle Bee" in my next post.
Keeping kicking those bullies!
Source: Coloraso, Barbara. (2011, December). Bully, bullied, bystander...and beyond. Education Digest 77, 36-39.
Photo courtesy of Salvador L.A.