In the heated debate about gun violence, many factors are being considered: mandatory background checks, the possibility of banning assault weapons and multi-ammo clips, beefing up school security, a scrutiny of violent video games and more attention to people suffering from mental illness. All are good approaches. Hopefully, they will all be adopted.
However, there is one factor in violence that hasn’t been mentioned much at all in this important ongoing national debate. That factor is bullying.
It is a tragic fact most people who commit these massacres have been the victims of bullying of one kind or another, usually when they are school students. Bullying can cause its victims to feel like outsiders, and that isolation can eventually turn to anti-social rage – the kind of rampant anger that can lead to horrible violence or to suicide. Some bullied outsiders turn for “entertainment” to vicious video games that show animated “people” blowing away others with assault weapons. Social alienation combined with absorption in violent images is an explosive combination, a recipe for disaster.
Until schools and workplaces can stop bullying, these mass shootings will likely continue.
A solution to bullying starts in the home, in each and every family. The following are some anti-bullying tips for parents often suggested by experts on bullying:
1. Do not deny bullying as many do, thinking it doesn’t happen “here.” Realize it happens to some degree in every school, every neighborhood. Also understand even normally “nice” children can sometimes bully or be drawn into bullying behavior.
2. Sit down and talk heart-to-heart with children about how bullying can be hurtful, even if the verbal taunting or other acts might seem “innocent.” Use examples and ask children how they would feel if that happened to them.
3. Parents should be keen to the signs of bullying, which can include reluctance to go to school, falling grades, outbursts of anger or emotional withdrawal. If a child bullies or is the victim of bullies, parents should intervene immediately to stop it. That includes meetings with school officials and even with police if the problem seems to spell danger.
4. Parents should teach empathy for others through examples and most of all through their own actions by being kind in dealings with others.
5. Talk with children to make sure they know bullying can be perpetrated via the Internet as well as in person.
6. Be sure to find out the details of a bullying policy in schools and then find out if the policy is enforced consistently. Meet with administrators and school board members.
Schools are doing some good work these days against bullying. Parents can help on the homefront by learning about and teaching the dangers of bullying.