I am an Elementary Education major, which you probably know because I don’t shut up about it 1. Because I’m passionate about it and 2. Because I don’t shut up. As you also likely know, bullying stands as one of the hot topic issues in elementary schools. Bullying is wrong and should be stopped, yes, of course. However, often, this issue becomes not anti-bullying, but anti-bully, and this is where I have a problem.
I was doing a bit of research today and watched far too many anti-bullying videos on YouTube. Far too many of them ended with the victim shaming or attacking the child who was bullying. A victim attacking the person bullying them does not stop bullying; it shifts it to a different location. If we attack bullies, verbally or physically, and not their actions, we promote bullying, and move it to a position of greater power.
This is why I love bullies:
Because they are people
Whether misunderstood sweethearts, genuinely mean, or somewhere in the middle, people who bully are people with stories and souls and favorite animals and feelings and futures. My value is not dependent on my actions and neither is the value of people who are mean. In special education, we use person first language (example: “boy with autism” instead of “autistic boy”) because the disability does not define the student. I’m a fan. Some may think it’s picky, but I think it’s a fabulous way to use language to convey meaning that is closer to what we are trying to say. Choosing words is important. I propose a similar use of language in the arena of bullying. I have seen this in practice, but far too rarely.
Let’s position our kids, not against bullies, but against bullying behavior. Let’s give kids who have been harsh towards others a second chance instead of a label. Let’s not propose “befriending the bully” as a solution of self-protection and charity. Let’s love, and encourage love from students.
Maybe this won’t make bullying go away. Maybe bullying won’t ever go away. But it gives students the freedom to not become their worst actions. I believe in believing in kids, and I love kids who bully.