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Mainstream Media Actually Gets Something Right About Bullying

A few weeks back I wrote a post about the controversial new documentary from Hollywood Indie film icon, Lee Hirsch called, "Bully" that was just released.

What makes the film controversial is that because of several "F-bombs" that are in the movie, the Hollywood agency that is in charge of ratings slapped an "R" rating on the movie, thereby making it much more difficult for the target audience of the film to see the movie.

The documentary is a searing look at the emotional and physical toll that is suffered from victims of bullies and their families; the scenes where someone drops an "F-bomb" are emotionally charged and the use of that word drives home the emotional power of the moment. In no way did I think that any of the profanity was inappropriate, forced or written in for effect. It was real. It conveyed the feelings of frustration and helplessness.

But – that is not what I want to talk about today.

What I want to talk about is an interesting take by a writer for the Time magazine Ideas website. I have to confess, it is rare that I agree with much of anything that comes from any media source; unless you are getting your information raw or straight from the source – without passing through someone else's filter – it is very difficult to know what is fact and what is slanted. In this instance, the writer – Andrew J. Rotherham – wrote a piece that sounded like I wrote it – albeit with a tad more polish around the edges.

The point he made in his article – and it is a point I make in the book, "Bullies Suck" - is that as much as we all want to eliminate bullying and believe all stakeholders – kids, parents, teachers, administrators, school systems, law enforcement and government – should be involved, the reality is that when outside entities get involved, they tend to have "knee-jerk" reactions and start making policy that has no basis in common sense.

Growing up, it is what we called the "Locking and Barring the Door After the Horse Got Out of the Barn" Syndrome. Once the horse has escaped from the barn and run away, locking and barring the door isn't going to help a thing; matter of fact, it might make it worse when the horse comes back (which they usually do) and can't get back in the barn.

When other entities get involved and start having "knee-jerk" reactions, you get "Zero Tolerance" policies. Policies that are made up not with input from victims, parents of victims, people impacted by the situations or experts in the situation, all who have a goal of solving the problem and using common sense; no – you get policies made by people who are afraid of loss, liability, or not getting re-elected that want a fast, one-size-fits-all answer to the problem.

What complicates things even more is that the outside entities in power to make policy always have their opinions on how things "should be" and, rather then listen to those who may be smarter, have more experience, have a different point of view and sometimes, even demonstrable proof that a certain course of action is best – they just go ahead and do it "their way".

This is how you get policies that say, "If you get into a fight coming to the aid of someone who is defenseless and getting beat up by three other kids, you get suspended, too – no questions asked."

You get policies that have kids getting sent home for wearing a U.S. Marines t-shirt because the t-shirt has a stencil of crossed rifles imprinted on it; You get policies where a bully can pick on a victim, then turn around and report his victim as the one who did the bullying, and the victim has to go to a mandatory meeting with a principle.

Unfortunately, when you get these blanket, Zero Tolerance policies, you strip  a person's ability to come up with and use common sense to solve problems.  You also get a problem that I see everywhere in our culture…

It seems as if people are looking for – and think they need – permission to do the right thing or stand up for themselves.

People seem to be paralyzed; something happens to them like they get bullied and instead of dealing with it themselves, they look to someone else to tell and solve the problem for them.

Why?

They don't know what is "socially acceptable". They don't want to get suspended.  They don't want to disappoint their parents, get sued by the bully's family, run into problems with law enforcement or worse. This doesn't mean that all of things would happen if and when you stood up for yourself but I know for a fact that is what go through people's minds when they get bullied. I know because that's what went through my head when I was bullied; I was taught just like everyone else NOT to stand up for myself, DO NOT get into a physical confrontation, it takes a bigger person to walk away and so on.

The reality is that the solution to stopping bullying lies NOT with outside entities; the solution lies with us – you and I. When you go to an outside entity and expect them to do something about it, you give your power away to that entity to solve your problems.  To be clear, when bullying happens to you or your child, you DO want to follow the correct chain of command and report it, but NOT for them to solve the problem, but for them to be a part of the process that you control. The distinction is very, very important.

We have to teach ourselves and our children that we are the answer, not someone else. We are strong enough. We are valuable enough. We love ourselves enough to care how we are treated. We want to be confident in our belief in what is right and wrong and what we will or won't tolerate.  Every single person on Earth is equally valuable, has the right to think, have opinions, beliefs and most importantly, the power to stand up for what they believe.

We are the answer. Don't leave it up to someone else to dictate how you or your child should or should not respond to something as personal as being bullied.

Stay strong,

Sensei

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