There is a big media blitz on bullying going on. There's a movie coming out. Lady GaGa started a foundation. Radio and TV are filled with horror stories as the commentators act surprised and appalled.
The number one tip for parents to keep in mind when raising their kids is that kids will do what you do, not what you say. Unfortunately, the messages our actions send, as parents and as a whole society, are too often the exact opposite of our lip service.
Why do we expect kids to be all loving and kind to each other when everything they see in society is not? Bart Simpson spends all his time bullying his own father, and we find it funny. Every movie and TV show geared for teens is about how to be conniving, tough, or overly competitive. Batting around insults, usually directed at one unfortunate character is the norm. Or, even worse, we revel in the bad behavior of whichever reality TV star of the day has done something violent or otherwise mean. The fact that there is even a show called “Bad Girls Club” on cable is enough to reveal that we, as a collective, do not promote the concept of getting along.
The current political campaigns are another grand demonstration of how to bully. Each side spends a lot of time and energy directing verbal arrows at the other, designed to encourage public hate. This includes digging up embarrassing history about the candidates to spreading lies that slam the opposition's dignity. These are vicious and continuous verbal assaults on one individual, backed by some kind of gang (here the political party or Super PAC). I'm sorry, but that is the definition of bullying. And in this case, the one who is the best at calculated bullying, often wins. Few of us in the real world could withstand it.
As a country, we lord the threat of violence over other counties. Basically saying, do what we say or we'll pound you. Then we wait for countries, like Iraq, after school and screw them up.
Then there is the realities that don't get broadcast so much until it blows up. Let's start with the mortgage debacle of the 2000's. To get what they wanted, people in the banking industry lured in unsuspecting people who should never have qualified for a home loan and gave it to them. First acting all nice and friendly, then turning on them and ruining their lives. Is that not bullying?
In the office, I've often seen people – well dressed and educated adults – engage in career backstabbing, rumor mongering and office politics in order to put others down and get ahead in business. This especially comes screaming out when the prospect of layoffs is on the table or you are competing for clients.
So why are we so surprised and when we find out that kids are bullying each other? We act like we were never in school ourselves and that we don't promote and witness bullying on a global scale.
I think it's great that people are finally talking about it and actually saying out loud that it needs to change, but I have a hard time seeing how that is going to happen if WE don't change our own actions. And, I don't really see that happening anytime soon.