This week, a tragedy unfolded at a high school in Ohio. It has left many questioning the motive of a young man who violently took the lives of 3 innocent victims. Questions might never be answered for many who wonder why such acts occur, and why so many young people are turning to such drastic measures as a method of dealing with their emotions. The subject of bullying comes up over and over again. The focus on this problem has been explored by the media, schools, and mental health experts. It has reached the concern and the involvement of the White House. What more can we do to help not only the victim of bullying, but the bullies themselves? Just calling attention to the problem is not enough. We have to take stronger actions to improve the reality of these young people so that incidents like this do not occur again.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to notice a kid that is the outcast. When I was teaching, I could tell on day one of a new school year, the students that were not part of an acceptable group. They were quiet loners who no one wanted to talk to, work with, or be friends. That was years ago and since then, the internet and social networking has exacerbated the problem. I read seen a number of reports by experts who give advice on how to handle a bully. It ranges from ignoring, to shouting at them, to not allowing them to have power over the victim. This might seem doable, but when a kid is the target of an individual or group of tormenters, this type of action is not going to make them back down. More likely it will cause a ramping up of the negative behavior, causing the victim to feel an increase in depression and helplessness. If we really think about it, why should any child have to handle a bully?
The bully needs to be the target of change. This is a person in need of rehabilitation and behavior modification. They have to be counseled to understand that their actions unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. Parents need to accept the fact that their offspring is causing another human being a significant amount of pain. Although filled with bravado, the bully is often a child who feels insecure, neglected, and in desperate need of attention. Ironically those are exactly the same feelings experienced by their victim.
We are living in difficult times, but our kids demand our attention. Everyone needs to feel wanted, validated, and encouraged. We need to get more students involved in activities that promote their talents and interests. The school, places of worship, libraries, organized clubs, music, dance, art, sports, etc., all allow kids to feel like they belong to something. They become contributing members of a group that accepts them. It doesn’t cost anything to volunteer, and the rewards can be tremendous. If we show kids a better use of their time, they won’t be so involved in negative behavior, and more of them will be happy. Once again, adults have the responsibility to lead the way.