Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q. Qualities we instil in our children. Workplace bullying

This is my post for the letter Q in the A-Z blogging challenge 2011.

Bullying at school
Let's think for a moment about the qualities we aim to instil in our children. The ones we're proud of them for exhibiting - things like honesty, kindness, caring for the underdog and trying to resolve conflict with negotiation. In general, parents, society and schools (with a few exceptions) encourage children not to resort to violence.

As a society we say we value these qualities. And yet conversely when our child is the target of bullying in the playground, many parents demand of the same child "stand up for yourself". It's a very mixed message for any youngster. Equally perplexing to many children is the bullying which seems to be celebrated on the sport field and in business and the political areas.

Often we encourage children to "ignore them, they'll go away if you don't react".  But if the little tacker is being hounded day in, day out with sly and not so sly kicks, pinches and punches as well as verbal abuse,  ignoring the bully, or attempting to defuse the situation simply isn't going to work, particularly if school back up is ineffective. The bully is generally devious and sneaky enough to present a smiling, innocent face to any adult who happens on the event. They manipulate the situation so the target suffers doubly.

As parents we often don't know how to respond anyway, particularly if the school is weak and avoiding their responsibility for providing a safe environment. See CASSE (Creating A Safe Supportive Environment) to receive e-news and information on how schools can help raise awareness to counteract bullying. There are also links to academic papers by Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco. (Click on the tab "Bullying always happens in a social context" or "Disconnected youth are a high risk to schools".)

Bullying needs to be nipped in the bud at the very first instance. We need to celebrate schools that tackle the issue head on. Schools that excuse, condone or ignore the behaviour need to be encouraged to follow the best examples. Every child has a right to attend school to learn, each child has a right not to be bullied, harassed or assaulted by either students OR staff.

All children should be taught how to identify bullying tactics. We must not accept school yard bullying as an inevitable part of schooling. It doesn't toughen anyone up, has detrimental affects on a child's capacity to learn, they have more days off school which in turn means parents need to take time off work to care for the bullied child. Ignoring thuggish behaviour is in effect condoning it. Children should not be expected to handle these damaging situations alone. They need competent support and reliable mature assistance.

The bully may appear to have friends; sadly others often tag along due to fear of being targeted themselves. The bully may be envious of your child and their very good qualities, their humanity, their compassion, their academic achievements, envious of their loving home and caring environment which may be sorely lacking in their own life.
Children shouldn't be expected to cope with bullying alone.
The damage from childhood bullying can affect people for life.  As an adult, children who have been targets of serial bullying may be uncertain and apologetic, they often question their abilities and competence and fail to achieve without intensive support. (Ricky is an example of someone who struggled academically after years of serial bullying at home and school.)

Some adults who have been bullied as children lack a sense of security and trust in others. They haven't been taught appropriate strategies to counteract the unwanted, unasked for attention, and go on to be bullied in the workplace as adults. In addition, schoolyard bullies who haven't been held accountable for their unacceptable, thuggish behaviour as children, often (but not always) go on to be adult bullies, often rising to positions of considerable power at work. In these instances, the damaging effects can undermine reasonable requests for corporations to take responsibility for their actions, affecting health, families and the lives of people far beyond the immediate work environment.

Depending on the cause of the bullying, some adults bullies can be mentored in better, more mature management techniques, and discover the new skills create a happier more productive workforce.

Qualities of the schoolyard bully
For the qualities that childhood bullies display see Bullying (April 2, 2011).

Further information on bullying at school here. For schools, teachers and other interested parties: CASSE has an inexpensive conference in May 2011 in Melbourne, link here. Further programmes here

Here tomorrow: R - Responsibility

There are many outstanding resources on line. A couple I find useful are Bullying. No way! an Australian resource for teachers and students, and a UK site Bully On Line. The Facebook group eBossWatch regularly posts links to articles and discussions about workplace bullying. This is in no way an exhaustive list, and each country will no doubt have equally good or more relevant websites. If you're being bullied please seek advice from a professional health care practitioner experienced in this area.

Over at jumpingaground I'm spending the month Drabbling using alliteration, often with an environmental theme.

3 comments: said...

Thanks for this relevant, sensitive post on such an ugly issue - one adults would rather ignore. Great job.

M Pax said...

It is an ugly issue. My grammer school didn't tolerate it at all. Then our schools were too crowded for the adults to keep track of what went on.

sue said...

Robyn, thankyou for your encouragement. It's one I'm sure we all wish would just go away.
M.Pax, Zero tolerance for bullying is vital, as is having everyone in the school on board - from the cleaners to canteen staff, to teachers and students.