If we want to tackle the issue of bullying, asking “Is it bullying or ‘kids will be kids’?” is a good place to start. In animism we always look to Nature and/or the wheel of life for answers. So what does Nature have to say?
I live on a farm. Chickens, goats, and dogs (and other animals as well) have a pecking order. They “bully” newcomers to let each other know where they stand in the hierarchy. This helps canines survive because only the alpha male and female breeds. This means that only the strongest genetics get passed on. If there is a danger to the pack, the strongest dog also is always out front. This gives the pack a better chance of thriving as well.
Chickens peck at outliers. If a white or yellow chick starts bleeding, the other chicks will peck at that “different” spot until they kill the chick. When something looks different, it could be a sign of disease or mutation that could wipe out the flock. So, this “bullying” behavior is pre-programmed and advantageous. It’s protective. Children do it too.
Obviously we don’t want our kids to be weeded out or picked on. So how does knowing this help with kids? Well, just like with animals, there is a reason why certain kids get picked on and certain kids become bullies. Let’s take a look.
Who Gets Picked On?
When a predator is looking for a meal, whom does he choose? The weak one. The same thing is true with humans. People with low self esteem are much more likely to be the target of a bully than someone who is confident. Most of the time, a bully isn’t spoiling for a fight. He’s spoiling for a fight he can win. So he’s going to choose the person he feels he can dominate. When we teach our kids great communication skills, give them lots of love and support, and teach them how to channel healthy Warrior energy, they grow confident and self assured. Not only will they be less likely to be a bully’s target, they will be more capable of rolling with the punches and bouncing back. This is Sovereignty!
Who Becomes a Bully?
Humans don’t generally attack each other to save the pack or wipe out threats to the gene pool. Bullying in people is usually about self esteem too. It’s about power. It’s a way to stay safe. The bully thinks if he can control something, in this case his victim, he will feel better about himself and his situation. If he neutralizes his insecurities, he feels safer. Of course, no one else is the cause of our insecurities so it’s not a particularly effective strategy, but that’s what bullying is about.
So, what’s the solution? Sovereignty and connection. Sovereignty is not just the ability to set healthy boundaries and take care of ourselves. It’s also about the right use of power. A person with high self esteem maintains healthy boundaries and doesn’t violate someone else’s sovereignty. He doesn’t misuse his power. As a part of the community, he has a duty to protect himself, his property, and anyone else that is weak and can’t do this for themselves. This applies to elderly, mentally ill, sick, intellectually disabled, and young people. This is why we get so outraged when we hear about child abuse. Something in us just knows that this is horribly out of line.
When sovereignty and connection are community wide, we see fewer people clamoring for power that they don’t have the responsibility or knowledge to wield. Look at dogs. Once the alpha is chosen, there is peace in the pack because everyone obeys the pecking order. When we have strong, effective leadership, we don’t need to bully. So bullying is systemic. It’s not just about the bully and the victim. The society we live in allows it to thrive.
Is It Bullying or “Kids Will Be Kids?”
It’s natural for kids to pick on other kids. They notice things that are different. So, in that way it’s just normal. Kids have to learn life skills. They do this through play and resolving conflict. The more creative and skillful they are, the more options they have.
Standing out can be really advantageous or very isolating. When our kids are reared with high self esteem and a sense of belonging to the community, they:
- take pride in their uniqueness
- appreciate diversity in others
- see bullying as being about the incident rather than a sign of them being unlovable
- bounce back more easily after being targeted
- are less likely to target others
If bullying is impacting you or someone you love – either on the giving or receiving end – cultivate Sovereignty and connection. We don’t hurt people we feel connected to. We don’t allow ourselves or others to be hurt when we’re standing in our Sovereignty. Approaching with condemnation keeps the cycle going. Compassion helps to heal the wound that kicked it off in the first place.