Bullying – Is Teaching “Toughness” The Answer?

unpopular-bully-victimThe debate over bullying in America, particularly in American schools, showed up in an unlikely forum this month – Reddit. More specifically, how to fix our bullying problem was the topic of discussion in the popular subreddit /r/adviceanimals, where users post a meme picture with their own text superimposed.

The meme in question (pictured on the right) was an “unpopular opinion” image, and as of this morning has elicited 714 comments.

While the idea that there will (may?) always be people in life who will call you names is true for the most part, there is a reason that that view is unpopular. The notion that we should abandon efforts to keep kids from being bullies is completely wrong. The core of parenting should be teaching kids to be better people, including how they treat others.

The most popular comments from the Reddit discussion:

“Why can’t we just do both?”

Reddit users can assign a single positive or negative score to a post or comment, by upvoting or downvoting. The comment above received a net upvote score of 815 (815 more upvotes than downvotes). Indeed, we should do both.

I was surprised at how much support was given to the idea that we should focus on helping victims deal with bullying as opposed to trying to prevent it in the first place. For example:

“I say pretty much the same thing. If you’re getting bullied, do something about it. Even if you’re outmatched, you standing up for yourself will most likely stop it even if you still hate each other afterwards. Kids just need to stick up for themselves.”

bullying-wisdomI’d prefer not to believe that we live in a world so harsh that making an effort to prevent bullies from bullying is fruitless. Consider the following comment:

“Obviously we want to encourage kids to learn how to deal with bad people, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be enforcing stricter punishments against those who do bully, and keeping our eyes open for a greater awareness of the problem. It’s never too early to teach someone not to bully, but … there is definitely a point where it is far too late to teach someone how to cope. Most kids who get bullied don’t tell their parents, don’t tell anyone. Who’s going to teach those kids how to cope?”

Current school anti bullying efforts continue to be widely criticized, but the most important message has to remain that it is not OK to be a bully.


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