Show of hands: How many of you know children or youth who have taken anti-bullying classes? OK, now show of hands: how many of you know adults who have taken anti-bullying classes. Maybe I’m alone in this, but if you’re like me, you know tons of kids who have been required to take anti-bullying training…but there’s nothing on offer for adults.
Which seems ridiculous, now that I think of it, because as we all know, bullying doesn’t end at age 18. There are bullies in our workplaces, in our communities…even in our churches. So why do we stop with the anti-bullying training once kids are out of school?
I found lots of resources out there. Edutopia has a great list here. Also check out stopbullying.gov and tolerance.org. But, again, I’m struck by the fact that that all of these seem to focus on schools and young people. In fact, the definition of bullying on stopbullying.gov is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” (emphasis mine)
It occurred to me it could be extremely valuable for churches to offer an intergenerational anti-bullying workshop where adults and youth can learn from one another’s experience and practice together some techniques for addressing bullying behavior. And, what do you know, the Lutheran Church is way ahead of me on this one with a free downloadable curriculum. Entitled Where All Can Safely Live, this four-session program defines bullying and the various roles one might play in the bullying scenario, and then provides resources to help people plan their response.
However, if a four-week commitment is difficult, I wonder if a short training session based on the infographic to the right would still be helpful. (More information on the infographic here.) What if we were to practice this intervention response, which may not come naturally to us, by role-playing. I think this would work in all sorts of circumstances, not just the Islamophobia pictured here.
This comes with some caveats. Based on their personal history, not everyone is going to be able to take the role of the bullied person. Nor should the simulation “bully” actually bully another; I would propose having the person simply say “bully bully bully” over and over –but I welcome your suggestions. However, I think it’s important that each person, youth and adult, play the role of the third person who moves from being a bystander to intervening. It is through practice – actual, physical, lived-out practice – that I think we will be able to act when the time comes.
If you have other resources for addressing bullying, especially in an intergenerational context, please share them in the comments.