Now, more than ever, it is necessary, urgent, to teach our children that respect and kindness trump bullying. We have entered an election year when politicians think it is permissible to belittle one another with cruel mockery and personal insults. It seems rare to hear anyone stand up and say what I have witnessed in my 35 years as a clinical psychologist: that name-calling and rants against peoples character and appearance hurts and destroys.
How do we expect children to respect one another and show lovingkindness when the politicians who wish to be leaders and role models are vicious to one another? I am certain that, when the name-calling makes the news, most of us are transported back to their early days in elementary or middle school when we were dealing with bullies who tried to make our lives miserable. How did we manage the cruelty? Some of us didn't. Some of us managed to get through it with the hope that it would disappear as we got older. Most of us are still haunted by the memories that surface when we turn on the news and hear the politicians making fun of peoples' appearances and trading verbal insults.
Studies have shown that children subjected to repeated bullying have lower self-esteem, and are more likely to develop anxiety and depression.
We must push back against the meanness. We must urge the politicians to stop setting poor examples for our children. If we want kind, well-adjusted children with their self-esteem intact, we must also show kindness and respect for one another. And that goes not only for the politicians but for all of those individuals who think nothing of tossing out cruel, hurtful comments. This is often seen on the internet. The anonymity of the net allows people to feel that they can say anything they wish about others, without considering the sometimes dire consequences for those affected. If all of us do not pay attention to this now, there will be a huge price to pay later.
Rigby, K. (2003). Consequences of bullying in schools. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48,583-590.10. Slee, P. T. (1994). Situational and interpersonal correlates of anxiety associated with peer victimization. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 25,
Slee, P. T. (1994). Situational and interpersonal correlates of anxiety associated with peer victimization. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 25, 91-107. doi: 10.1007/BF02253289
Swearer, S. M., Siebecker, A. B., Johnsen-Frerichs, L. A. & Wang, C. (2010). Assessment of bullying/victimization: The problem of comparability across studies. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer and D. L. Espelage, (Eds.), Handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective (pp. 305-328).New York, NY: Routledge.