On Sunday November 11th, I spoke about bullying and on-line safety as part of The Centre for Child Honouring Speaker Series on Salt Spring Island, BC. The Child Honouring movement was founded by Raffi Cavoukian, best known as Raffi, the children’s troubadour. Child Honouring principles and the Adlerian principles I teach are 100% aligned. I encourage you to take a moment to read Raffi’s Covenant for Child Honouring. I have a copy posted on my wall in my office.
I framed my talk around the need for systemic changes in the way we relate to one another. We need to move from a culture that is impressed with power and superiority and instead move to a society that is based on a “culture of respect” (to borrow a phrase from Child Honouring). Our historic methods of keeping societal order were the use and abuse of power over others. The goal was keeping order through obedience. Power was arranged vertically with those at the top imposing their will on the underlings. Oppression can achieve compliance and obedience, but at a very great cost. We have seen in the research of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo that humans will put aside their moral conscience in order to obey authority with little prompting. When the oppressed and the obedient are given freedom from their oppressor, they no longer obey but proceed to dominate and exert their power over the underlings they can find to abuse.
Sadly, we see this very trend in bullying. Most bullies are the recipients of bullying. Bullying thrives because we still raise children in a culture that does not share power well, that largely seeks to control and manipulate children. Bullying is a relationship problem that requires a relationship solution. The solution comes in aiming to raise co-operative children instead of obedient ones. Co-operation, not obedience. That is a significantly different goal of child rearing and today’s parents are not trained with methods of discipline that don’t involve power over others. These methods do exist and we have hard evidenced-based research to prove the effectiveness of this style of parenting. We need parents to have easier access to parent education in order to learn these new methods. We need our classroom teachers and school administrators to be given training in child guidance principles that embrace positive discipline techniques.
The desire for power is natural. Children will experiment and seek power. Raffi taught me this weekend that the word power comes from the ancient French word “poeir” which means “ability” or to be capable! Indeed, every human has a need to be “empowered” to have autonomy, mastery and a sense of efficacy and agency in their life. In the presence of “poeir” children don’t need to seek power in the form of dominating others. In fact, if we want to raise caring co-operative children we have to create the proper conditions. Co-operation is a by-product of feeling that we belong, and that we are in mutually respectful relationships. If children feel disconnected or disrespected they will be unwilling to be co-operative.
We need to model healthy respectful relationships that share power appropriately. Do you do that in your coupleship? Do we do this in our school classrooms? Do we accomplish this in our politics and business institutions? We have a mammoth job to do if we are going to eliminate bullying in this culture. It is doable, but it involves mobilizing every level of society in the systemic change process. Having a school assembly and putting up a anti-bullying poster is not going to cut it.
If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably heard me speak or read my other tips and so you are already motivated to move in this direction. Let’s keep spreading the word and working together to make a better world for our children. Great bullying information and resources can be found at PrevNet.ca, Kidsareworthit.com and micheleborba.com.