Children are the Makers of Man
Where Do Bullies Come From?
Bullies. What is going on with bullies these days? Bullies are nothing new. In fact, it seems like they’ve always been around; just look at your books and movies. Bully characters commonly crop up in the everyday lives and adventures of our favorite storybook heroes. Sometimes bullies turn out to be lonely, misunderstood people who, once the ice is broken, turn out to be a friend and ally, as with Bridge to Terabithia. Other times, they actually provide a little comedy, like the bullying scenes in A Christmas Story.
“If help and salvation are to come they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of man.” - Maria Montessori
Unfortunately, the reality of bullying is no joke. Today’s news headlines are riddled with tragic stories of bullying gone to extremes. Relentless tormentors use physical and emotional bullying to degrade and humiliate their victims, sometimes to the point of debilitating depression or even suicide. And the greatest travesty of it all is that these bullies, and their victims, are our children. As Maria Montessori once said: “If help and salvation are to come they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of man.”
Once Upon A Time
The truth of this statement really hit home recently when I overheard my twelve-year-old son’s Facetime conversation with his friend. (I really wasn’t spying, I promise! It’s just that I can hear everything with those Facetime conversations.) Anyway, the friend was describing an incident at school that went something like this: apparently, he had been punched in the belly so hard that it made him sick. He was sent, throwing up, to the nurse’s office. There, he had been encouraged to “tell on” the boy who threw the punch, something he didn’t want to do because he was afraid of retribution. Ultimately, he confessed that the boy had been bullying and threatening him for many months leading up to the incident. The bully was subsequently suspended from school.
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” - Maria Montessori
Okay, so this might sound like a relatively ordinary tale to you. You might even say, “boys will be boys.” But in this case, these particular boys have known each other all their lives. And I’ve known them all their lives. I’ve driven these boys to baseball practice, served them cake at birthday parties, and even wiped their runny little noses when they were just wee lads. They’re both nice kids from nice families. Why would one of them start behaving like such a bully? And what happened to those sweet little guys I used to know?
I remember a day several years ago, when these very same boys and my son were among a group of children playing in the snow. They were playing about two blocks from where I lived. According to my son, one of the boys accidentally stepped into a very deep pocket of snow. When he tried to pull his foot out, his boot came off. Now he was stuck standing in the snow with only a sock on one foot. The children all chipped in, trying to retrieve his boot from beneath the heavy snow. Meanwhile, the boy’s foot got so cold and painful that he couldn't walk on it. He started to cry. My son and another child decided it was time to go get help. They ran the two blocks to my house. I can still see the expression on that little boy's face, so serious and full of concern for his friend. That same boy has now been suspended from school for bullying.
What the heck happened? And why has bulling become so prevalent? The following shocking statistics were revealed in an Age of Montessori webinar:
- It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association
- One in seven students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying
- 56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school
- 15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied at school
- 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school
- 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month
I am astonished and dismayed by these statistics. What is a parent to do? How do we protect our children from bullies, or from becoming bullies?