Bullying is a tough nut to crack. Bullying behavior satisfies a bully’s needs on a primal, instinctual level; a level so basic that they often do not realize they are bullying. Bullies can’t necessarily be talked or shamed out of bullying, may not respond for long to regular disciplinary measures (denial of privileges or activities); in fact adult intervention can lead to even more bullying.
What, then, is an appropriate response to bullying? It begins by understanding the causes, forms and motivations of bullying. An excellent article on bullying at Wikipedia is a good place to start as are the resources at bullying.org. Bullies are looking for attention, expressing their own insecurity by exploiting the insecurity of others and, in a few of the worst cases, because of a serious mental or social imbalance in their lives. Bullying ranges from passive name calling to physical assault and each requires a commensurate response; never underestimate how damaging and dangerous it can be – it is serious business.
There are some basic strategies to address bullying within a Scout Troop;
- Educate yourself – Know what bullying is, why it happens and appropriate responses when it occurs.
- Don’t let it begin – Maintain an safe environment that leaves no room for bullying. Foster mutual respect, acceptance and tolerance.
- Don’t be a bully yourself – Bullying is as effective as it is reprehensible; coaches, teachers, bosses and Scout leaders have used it in the past. Honestly examine your own actions and motivations. Are you bullying your Scouts?
- Address any incidents immediately – Bullying does not usually resolve itself- more often than not it gets worse. Once it is recognized it must be stopped.
Protecting our Scouts from bullying is only half the battle – we also need to help the bully. Scouts are motivated to participate in the program for many different reasons. I cannot help think that our most troublesome, difficult Scouts are with us because they really need our assistance. Scouting provides many opportunities for positive attention and building self esteem, something that bullies are looking for in all the wrong ways.