As a life coach, victims of bullying hold a special place in my heart. We’ve all, at some time or another in our life, experienced or witnessed bullying. Believe me, it occurs in childhood all the way through adulthood. (I’m guessing a former or current bully has popped up in your head as your reading this column.) I’ve worked with children as young as second grade giving them strategies and tools to use in future encounters. Not surprisingly, I’ve never had parents of a bully request my services. Strategically, prevention can be more effective when concentrating on both the victim and the bully. This brings me to the question
“What factors play a role in creating a bully?” In her book Out of Control, (Namaste Publishing,) Shefali Tsabary, PHD, delivers an interesting perspective on the bully’s background. Tsabary states, “Lack of heart creates the bully, the criminal, the rapist, and the psychopath, not a lack of discipline.” She poses that the child’s connection to his/her own feelings has somehow been severed and when a child has lost his/her sense of emotional connection, continued discipline perpetuates the disconnection the child has continually identified with from the beginning. In no way is Tsabary suggesting to hold off in the discipline department; on the contrary, her suggestion is to build a positive self-esteem in your child by providing a safe and loving home environment so when discipline is needed it is directed toward the child’s behavior rather than the child self-esteem. According to Tsabary, “When a parent or other significant adult in a child’s life inadvertently sets up a situation in which they are so invested in their own agenda that they can’t hear what their child is trying to communicate, the child grows up feeling invalidated…. I can’t emphasize strongly enough that when a child’s own voice has been either neglected or bullied into silence, the child can no longer respond to this voice, which is how they lose touch with the natural empathy of one human for another.” I experienced this first hand decades ago with my son and a neighborhood bully. We were aware of this young man’s existence because neighbors warned us he was known to go from mailbox to mailbox, ruffling through mail and throwing it on the ground. One day he decided to take my son’s bike without permission and later returned it by throwing it in the front yard. Once we discovered his address my son and I went to his home to complain. His father wasn’t present but his wife said she would let him know once he was home. Thankfully my husband was home when the bully’s father knocked on our front door. What we witnessed was an adult bully (the father) facilitating the very behavior we witnessed in his son’s behavior. I guess that coincides with the phrase “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” The father reassured us his son would never bother us again. While we were relieved the situation was brought to a positive conclusion, I always wondered what took place when the bully and his father returned to their home. About a month later I was walking in our neighborhood and noticed the home they were living in was vacant. Chances are no matter where his family moved to, the bully’s issues most likely went unresolved.
Originally Published in The Bay City Tribune on February 7, 2016