Editor’s Note: As National Bullying Prevention month winds down, we wanted to share another resource for you to use in your classroom. This guest post is from Katherine Mayfield, author of the award-winning memoir, The Box of Daughter: Healing the Authentic Self. She is writing a book for teen victims of bullying, and is raising funds for the project on Indiegogo.com. She blogs on Dysfunctional Families on her website, TheBoxofDaughter.com.
According to Amy Wood author of Life Your Way, most kids bully other kids because they experience neglect, bullying, or other mistreatment at home.
Bullies lack emotional intelligence skills – the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, and overcome challenges. Kids who bully are often unaware of their feelings on a conscious level, and believe that the only way to feel better about themselves is by hurting and degrading other kids.
If bullies were provided a healthy outlet for their feelings – a chance to express their pain and anger – there would be no more need to bully other kids. And if victims of bullying could find a safe place to express the fear and sorrow that arise in response to abuse, they would be less likely to take their own lives.
As a survivor of bullying and emotional abuse in childhood, I’ve learned many techniques to help others who have experienced the torment of being bullied. Teaching emotional intelligence skills to young people – whether they are bullies or victims – can help them to understand and cope with overwhelming feelings in a nonviolent way.
Emotions are a very basic part of being human. As much as we attempt to – and wish we could – run our lives exclusively on logic, feelings are a substantial factor in most of our lives. When feelings are expressed, their release always brings a sense of clarity, providing the opportunity to act more mindfully and compassionately. But when feelings are ignored, denied and repressed, they grow in intensity, and eventually explode into emotional or physical violence directed toward others or toward the self.
When a young person feels intense emotion, but doesn’t see anyone else expressing feelings, he often believes there’s something terribly wrong with him. I propose that teachers begin to open a conversation about emotions with their students. Finding a way to integrate even a few minutes of discussion about feelings into the classroom will help students who live in a society where emotional expression is not encouraged understand that it’s normal and acceptable to have and express emotions.
Once students begin to talk about how they feel in class, the door is open for them to talk about feelings with their friends and release some of the pressure that denial creates. Here are some suggestions for integrating the subject into classwork.
If every school were to provide a forum – after school or in class – where students could talk about how they feel, young people would develop deeper bonds with each other and become more heart-connected with the community that a school represents. Ideally, every school would have a class entitled “Emotions 101,” where students could learn about this significant aspect of life and ask all the questions they wanted to.
It’s high time that our society accepted the fact that as human beings, we’re always going to have feelings. Expecting teens – with raging hormones and intense emotions – to keep a stiff upper lip at all times is inviting trouble. If their feelings don’t explode in acts of bullying or self-hatred now, they could surface one day as heart disease, road rage, or another form of violence toward the community. By helping teens learn to acknowledge and express their feelings, we’ll be helping to create a generation in which compassion and caring are two of life’s most important values.
The Missouri State Teachers Association recognizes the important role teachers and school employees can play in reacting to and preventing bullying of all shapes and sizes, including cyberbullying. That is why MSTA has put together a number of resources for teachers in an effort to assist you as you struggle with all of the issues that surround this topic. Call us at 800-392-0532 to schedule an in-school presentation from MSTA’s Legal Services Department today.
Missouri School Violence Hotline