If I were to tell you how you should behave, but I myself didn’t practice what I preach to you, what would you call me? A hypocrite, of course. (I do not exclude myself from this category. I, too, am a hypocrite; you can see my hypocrisy better than I see it, just as I can see your hypocrisy better than you see it.) Virtually all mental health professionals and educators believe that kids have a right to go to school without being bullied. This means that it is the schools’ or society’s responsibility to guarantee that kids can go to school without worrying that they may be bullied by other kids. It would be reasonable to expect that we adults, educators and mental health professionals, are not bullies ourselves, and know how to stop others from bullying us. All we want is for kids in school to behave as nicely towards one another as we do. And of course we know how to get our own kids to stop bullying each other. We just want school staff to create for our kids the same kind of safe environment in school that we provide for them at home. Right?
Wrong! As my survey of almost 4,000 mental health professionals shows, there is plenty of bullying going on in the lives of us experts, and we don’t know what to do about it. The bullying situation at home between our kids is much worse than it is in school. Yet we, who do a pretty crummy job of being bully-free in our own lives, and have no idea how to make our own two kids at home get along, expect a teacher to make sure that 30 students are always nice to each other. What do we want from our schools? They are already doing a much better job than we are!
Let’ see what the Bullying Survey reveals about bullying in our own lives and among our kids. (The survey is based on 3,721 seminar participants. Of these, 2,984, or 80.2%, were female and 673, or 18.1%, were male.)
Our Violent Nature
We want our children to be non-aggressive people. Like us, of course. Look at the following two items:
Question 16: If I hire someone else to kill, I am guilty of killing. Results: 97.9% of respondents answered Yes.
Item 10: I am personally responsible for killing animals.Results: 15.8% or respondents answered Yes.
We civilized human beings think we are non-violent creatures, in contrast to the evil “bullies” among us. Admirably, 98% of us recognize that if we pay someone to kill, we are guilty of killing. Yet only 16% of us feel we are responsible for killing animals. Are you a vegetarian? Probably not. Do you think the animals you eat butcher themselves and crawl onto your plates? Of course not. If you eat meat and fish regularly, you are responsible for the deaths of probably hundreds of animals per year. But money makes it possible to blind ourselves to our violent nature. Since we pay other people to kill the animals for us, in faraway fishing boats or slaughterhouses where we can’t see them doing it, we can be conveniently unaware of our responsibility for the killing. Similarly, we complain about sweatshop labor in other countries, but we want to buy our goods as cheaply as possible. We would never tolerate our children working under such conditions, but we pay people in Third World countries to perform slave-labor for us, so we can be oblivious of our responsibility.
Bullies ‘R’ Us
Item 7: I sometimes feel like a bully. Results: 37.9% of respondents answered Yes.
Question 8: I sometimes feel like a victim. Results: 55.3% of respondents answered Yes.
We want schools to be free of child bullies. Yet 40% of us sometimes feel like bullies. More than half of us (55.3%) sometimes feel like victims of bullying. We are adults – supposed experts in human behavior and education. If more than half of us feel like bullies and victims of bullying, how can we expect our kids to be free from bullying in school?
Item 5: There is at least one person in my life that gets angry with me fairly regularly. (It could be a parent, child, spouse, sibling, neighbor, boss, colleague, etc.) Results: 49.6% of respondents answered Yes.
Question 6: There is at least one person in my life that I get angry with fairly regularly. (It could be a parent, child, spouse, sibling, neighbor, boss, colleague, etc.) Results: 61.1% of respondents answered Yes.
Half of us have at least one person in our life that is currently getting angry with us on a regular basis. Why are they getting angry with us – because we’re being nice to them? No. We’re bullying them, that’s why!
61% of us are currently getting angry with someone in our lives. Why are we getting angry? Because they are bullying us! And we don’t know how to make them stop! Furthermore, the bullying experts call anger “bullying,” so the 61% of us that are getting angry with others are bullies.
So many of us are bullies and victims. Somehow, kids in school are supposed to be more saintly than we are.
Furthermore, people do not generally think of themselves as bullies. The bully is usually “the other person”. Items 7 and 8 showed that we, as adults, are almost 50% more likely to feel like a victim than a bully. When it comes to our children, the results are even more dramatic. Look at the following two items.
Item 25: I have a child who is (or was) a victim of bullies in school. Results: 38.3% of respondents answered Yes.
Item 26: I have a child who is (or was) a bully in school. Results: 9.7% of respondents answered Yes.
We are four times more likely to see our own child as a victim than a bully. So many victims and so few bullies. With so much bullying going on, who is doing it? Certainly not my child! The reason we are so eager to go on a school anti-bully crusade is that almost everyone thinks the bully is somebody else’s child.
Bullying in School Versus Bullying at Home
If educators and mental health professionals want schools to make kids stop bullying each other, obviously they believe that it is possible to accomplish this, and that they know how to make their own kids at home get along with each other. Hmmmm…Let’s see…
Item 21: I have a child who gets (or used to get) called names by other kids in school at least once a day. Results: 23.5% of respondents answered Yes.
Item 29: My children call each other names (or did so when they were growing up) at least once a day. Results: 43.8% of respondents answered Yes.
Item 22: I have a child who gets (or used to get) hit by other kids in school at least once a day. Results: 5.8% of respondents answered Yes. ‘
Item 28: My children hit each other (or did so when they were growing up) at least once a day. Results: 24.1% of respondents answered Yes.
The children of mental health professionals and educators are almost twice as likely to be called names every day by a sibling at home than by another kid in school. And they are more than four times as likely to be hit daily by a sibling than by a child in school. If the experts can’t get their own two kids at home to stop bullying each other, how can we expect a teacher with 30 students to make them stop bullying each other? The teachers are already doing a much better job than we are at home!
Barbara Coloroso, author of the best-selling bully-demonizing book, The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander, repeatedly insists that sibling rivalry is not bullying. Why? After all, the constant state of hostility between siblings fits the academic definition of bullying even more accurately than does what goes on between kids in school, so why isn’t it “bullying”? She has no good answer. She simply doesn’t want it to be. Because if sibling rivalry were bullying, how could she lead a crusade against bullying in schools when her approach can’t get siblings to stop bullying each other at home?
Advice for teachers: If you are facing parents who are angry because you aren’t succeeding in stopping other students from bullying their child, ask them how their kids get along at home. They’ll probably tell you something like, “Oh, they have the normal sibling rivalry. They fight every day.” Tell them, “I have thirty students. If you can figure out how to get your own two kids to stop fighting, please let me know how you did it. I promise I’ll do the same thing in school.” That will quickly get them off your back.
By the way, I have a friend, a school guidance counselor, who has had a bullying consultant business for years in addition to his school job. Several years ago, when I had lunch with him, I asked him how his two sons get along. He told me that they fight every day. I asked him what he does to try to make them stop. He said that he gives them the same anti-bully lessons his gives to students in school. I explained to him why his efforts aren’t working and are actually causing the fighting, and gave him my routine instructions for reducing sibling rivalry – by letting the kids work it out themselves. I met with him a couple of weeks later and he told me my advice worked. The fighting went down drastically. Amazingly, we expect the very things that don’t work at home to work in school.
Look at the following item:
Item 31: My kids tend to get along better when their parents aren’t around. Results: 43.3% of respondents answered Yes.
The anti-bully activists insist that adults have to protect children from each other. As I demonstrate in my seminar through role-playing, when adults try to make kids stop fighting with each other, they usually make it worse. Item 31 shows that almost half of us are aware that our kids get along better with each other when we aren’t around. That should be a hint.
(The percentage of siblings getting along better when their parents aren’t around is probably higher than 43.3%, but it is hard to know what happens between our kids when we aren’t there. And in families where siblings do fight a lot when the parents aren’t present, it is usually because the parents come home and then investigate and punish their kids for fighting when they were out.)
Let’s Get Sued
Item 11: I believe schools should be held legally responsible for stopping the teasing and bullying that goes on between kids in school. Results: 29.1% of respondents answered Yes.
A sizable minority of us — about 3 out of 10 — would like to see schools being held held legally responsible for stopping the teasing and bullying that goes on between kids in school. This means that parents can sue their children’s schools for failing to stop kids from bullying each other. If so, shouldn’t parents be held legally responsible for stopping these behaviors between our own children at home? We’re going to be spending an awful lot of time in court!
Sports, the True Danger
We are so concerned with this horrible problem of bullying in schools. Look at the following items:
Item 24: I have a child who had to go to the hospital because of a fight in school. Results: 1.4% of respondents answered Yes.
Item 30: One of my children had to go to the hospital because of a fight with a sibling. Results: 1.8% of respondents answered Yes.
Item 23: I have a child who had to go to the hospital because of a sports injury. Results: 31.2% of respondents answered Yes.
Despite all the bullying that goes on between kids, it is very rare for us to have to take our kids to the hospital because of a the “horrific” way they treat each other. Only 14 out of 1,000 of us have had to take our child to the hospital from a fight in school. The situation at home is about 30% worse than in school. Though it is still a rare phenomenon, 18 out of 1,000 of us have had to take a child to the hospital from a fight with a sibling. Yes, the homes of mental health professionals and educators are more dangerous for children than school.
But look at item 23. Almost a third of us (31.2%) have had to take our own child to the hospital due to a sports injury. In other words, our children are ten times more likely to have to go to the hospital from a sports injury than from fighting between kids at home and school combined! If we are truly concerned with our children’s welfare, why are we wasting time going after bullying in school? Let’s have an anti-sports campaign!