Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

May 4, 2012

Bullying: Much Ado and Much To Do About Something

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 2:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

A colleague forwarded me an unsigned editorial in a local paper in advance of a community-wide workshop on bullying that I will be giving next week.  The impassioned and angry words reveal a mother’s heart, and a mother’s pain, which can be powerful in and of itself, but which can also see things in a very personal and particular way.  (I was sufficiently distressed by the negativity in the editorial, that I am opting not to give the link to it here). This mother’s contention that bullying is always about money, is unchangeable, and workshops say all the same things but change nothing is understandable, but I am sorry to say, unacceptable.  Such dismissive and vituperative words only contribute to the continuation of the problem.  As long as we simplify bullying, vilify segments of the community, make ourselves impotent, we will fail.  I have the amazing job to work with schools, parents and children in addressing bullying, and it is unbelievably challenging and at times, unbearably painful.  But it is never fruitless.


Bullying is about power, but power is not only gained with wealth.  On the ball field, power comes with skill.  In social settings, the most personable or suave wields power.  And we also know that power in and of itself is not bad, any more than wealth, by definition, is bad.  It is all about how one uses that power.  Bullying is not only perpetrated by the wealthy or privileged.  But bullying flourishes when we throw up our hands in hopeless, helpless frenzy and say we know it all, heard it all, and nothing will change.


I wish that the hundreds of lectures, workshops and seminars I give yearly were the same old bully talk, delivered to people who already know it all.  Instead, I am routinely greeted by a room full of parents, educators, and sometimes students who have been misinformed, who get their only information from high-profile news stories and internet posts.  There is a wealth of sound, careful research that can help us make a difference.  And we learn more every day.  We have learned that working with bullies or victims independently is not the solution.  We have learned the power of bystanders, and are beginning to learn how to catalyze that power in teen peer groups.  We have learned that how adults act makes a huge difference in whether bullies, victims or bystanders will make good choices.  I for one have learned to keep listening, learning and talking, to anyone and everyone who will open themselves to the possibility that we can, should, must, make a difference in children’s lives and in our communities.


Perhaps the most disturbing part of reading the extremely negative, pessimistic editorial was thinking about what a parent who believed it would communicate to their children.  This comes after I spent yesterday at a school, asking students to complete surveys about bullying, some of which included questions about what their parents think.  I had numerous students ask “How can I  answer this question, I don’t know how my parents feel about bullying, teasing or leaving people out”.  When I asked students if they knew how their parents felt about religious observance (it was at a religious school) they responded in unison, “of course”.  They know their parents’ feelings about the Sabbath and other religious parameters, they say, because they see what their parents do, AND their parents talk to them about it.  (for a full description of this experience, see  If parents are hopeless, negative, pessimistic about the possibility of improving the world, being social agents of goodness and change, they are not likely to be modeling for AND talking to their children about doing all they can to make our communities safer and more welcoming.


The distraught mother titled her editorial Much Ado About Bullying But Nothing Will Be Done.  In decades of work with children, educators and parents, I have been wondrously and continuously surprised.  Human beings are remarkably capable of growth and change, individually and in the groups they inhabit.  I am so saddened by this mother’s pain, and her frustration.  Equally sad is the knowledge that she is not alone and others will, I’m afraid, have similar experiences.  In that context, I will speak to what I hope is a large crowd of parents next week.  I will share what I know, and hopefully they will leave a bit better informed.  More importantly, I will share my unwavering belief in the power of people to make a difference.  If that opens the ears, minds and hearts of even a few in the audience, I will feel it worthwhile.  And I will speak again, and again, and again, until we all carry, in our mother’s hearts, the belief that we and our children can make our world a better place.



  1. It had to be “answered” and, thankfully, it fell to the right place for that attempt! Every day, in every, and any, way, all of us must be positive in leading for the better. We may be retired, senior-citizened,etc; but are not averse to speaking out, if need be, when a hint of “bullying” rears its ugly head! (Don’t even try to “cut the line” when seniors queue up!!) At every age, and stage, neither power nor wealth is license to suppress; doesn’t the bully often lack self-worth ?? Keep up the “struggle”. E and S. Milch

    Comment by E and S Milch — May 9, 2012 @ 2:58 am |Reply

  2. What more is there to say? We all need to work toward being positive and tolerant of others who might be different than we are. You said it very well. We do need specifics though which I am certain you will give at your workshop (wish I could attend!) There is also a certain language we need to teach our children to help them deal with their feelings and with the bullies of their world.

    Comment by arlene lasko — May 14, 2012 @ 5:41 pm |Reply

    • Agreed, and thanks for your thoughts.. I hope to post a link to the workshop on bullying for parents that I recently offered. I’ll let everyone know on the blog and twitter when it is uploaded.

      Comment by Life's Toolbox — May 14, 2012 @ 11:19 pm |Reply

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