If pink shirts were enough to stop bullying, it would have already happened. It’s time to get underneath to the actual root issues and rewrite the story.
But what IS underneath? If we can address those issues in our schools we have a hope to seeing bullying a thing of the past.
The first issue underneath is that we are surrounded yet alone. The problem is isolation. When we as humans are not seen and understood by others, our minds actually become dis-regulated. We start living from our “back brain” (reptilian brain) and relate to others from a defensive stance. We misread signals and view others through our distorted perception of not being understood. As you can imagine, this is a scary foundation. On the other hand, when I reveal who I am or share a part of myself to those well-attuned to me, meaning their body language shows genuine concern and listening, the wires in my brain actually rewire! Listening and attunement rewrite people’s stories! If we want to stop bullying in our schools then emotional safety needs to be our first priority. The more safe students feel with one another, the less bullying you will see. HOW do you create that? My company’s whole mission is about creating that! We can help if you’re interested. Think about how can you create opportunities for your students to learn to hold space for one another’s stories? Go deeper than just tolerance and acceptance which speak to behaviour only. How do we get students to the heart of holding space for others?
The second issue underneath is the problem with anxiety and shame. Most anxiety is shame in disguise, “I’m not enough to handle this situation.” What’s beautiful about acknowledging this is that this is the emotion that unites us all. Who doesn’t feel like they are not enough on occasion? Who hasn’t felt the sting of shame? Bringing this to the fore front creates common ground and empathy for others. We need to address the elephant of shame and anxiety loses its power. Can you think of ways you can create an openness in your class where shame is named and therefore tamed?
The third issue underneath is the lack of accountability for how we create one another with our words. Words create people. We often focus on behaviour only: “Be nice”, “Use kind words”, but we don’t address how to SEE others through new lenses. More than ever, we need to create environments where students understand that they create one another with their words in the same way paint creates a picture on a canvas. Labels are powerful. The stories those closest to us tell us about ourselves become the story we believe about ourselves. Implicit memories of words spoken over us form our inner world that predict what we think will happen in different situations. “I knew they would hurt me”, “I knew I would fail”. These beliefs came from implicit memories that created a self fulfilling prophesy. What is something you can do to cultivate a culture of life giving words in your school? I will give you an example of what I recently did with a group of students in a school. I had children partner up and sit across from someone in the class they didn’t know well. I then passed out post it notes. I gave the instruction to really SEE the person across and write something down the “gold” they could see in the other person that would build them up. When they were finished writing, I asked them to put the post it on their partner. But it went further. I continued, “Not only is it our role as a community to treasure hunt the gold out of people in our class, but it’s also our duty as a community to GUARD the gold in one another.” This means continuing to see that gold in one another and call one another up to it in moments of weakness or discouragement. How powerful if we did this!
The last issue underneath is the need for us to encourage release of negative emotions. For example, offering forgiveness instead of revenge. We need to teach our students how to release negative emotions. Forgiveness doesn’t mean saying what was done to wrong us is ok, it’s setting ourselves free from hatred that only feeds into revenge mindsets that continue to feed into bullying. How many kids really wake up in the morning and think, “I’m going to be a real jerk today?” Of course they don’t. Many bully because they feel justified in doing so: “You hurt me so I hurt you”, “You’re different so that gives me permission to treat you differently.” Hurt people hurt people. What are some releasing activities you can do with your students to build them as a collective team and release negative energy? What will cultivate love, joy and peace in students? How would this impact a healthy self love that could spill onto others?
I see me: Courage
I see you: Compassion
I see us: Community
All of this steps use play, joy, celebration and connection. And it WORKS! I would love to come do a workshop with your teachers on my unique method I’ve built over 20 years.
Our world is defined by what we are willing to put up with. Bullying CAN be a thing of the past.
There are other reasons underneath bullying as well you may know! I would love to hear your thoughts. You can contact me at