Imagine you are a small child in a crowded school hallway. A couple big kids block your way and when you try to move around them they maneuver to stay in your way. Getting tired of being bullied, you push by. The next thing you know, the bully runs to the vice-principal to report you for pushing and demands that you be punished.
The scene I just described is called "crybullying." It is used by political and environmental activists daily to slow down industrial development and discredit their political enemies. Consider this classic example of crybullying from the University of Missouri.
In the video a young reporter is trying to take pictures of a demonstration in a public space when he is physically assaulted by protestors. The photographer, who is standing still, is repeatedly bumped by these protesters who then turn around and demand that the photographer be arrested for assaulting them.
Think that is the only case of this scourge? Consider #elbowgate this week (video here). In #elbowgate, two members of the NDP caucus physically blocked the path of a senior member of the Conservative party (MP Gord Brown) in the House of Commons.
MP Ellen Brosseau took a dive that would put Cristiano Ronaldo to shame.
As MP Brown tried to move around them, the NDP members repeatedly moved to block MP Brown. At one point one of the bullies (MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau) is even seen laughing, presumably about their actions, to a fellow MP in red. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, clearly tiring of the antics, decided to intervene and in doing so brushed MP Brosseau.
The result? MP Brosseau took a dive that would put Cristiano Ronaldo to shame. This is a grown woman who, before being elected as an MP, worked at a campus pub where she was presumably jostled on more than one occasion. Instead of shrugging it off she made a grand speech about how traumatized she was. It is easy to forget that she wasn't the innocent bystander in this story, she was one of the bullies.
So, what is the story the next day? The prime minister, who stepped in to help a bullied colleague, issues a formal apology and the crybullies are lionized by their peers.
Think this only happens in school grounds or the House of Commons? Think again, the tactic is used at virtually every major environmental protest. Protesters storm into buildings and then complain when they are detained by security. After all, they only wanted to scream at office workers using a megaphone. There was no way they could expect that the occupants of the building might not appreciate their intrusion.
Ultimately the crybullies have a simple approach, as Daniel Greenfield (who has written a lot on the topic) points out:
If you don't fight back, the crybully bullies you. If you fight back, the crybully cries and demands a safe space because you made him feel unsafe.
Sadly, we as a nation are letting the crybullies win and in doing so are only encouraging them to bully us more.
So, what is the cause of this problem? Well it can be traced back to the fact that the government has trained these crybullies to believe that they can use the tactics of civil disobedience while not suffering the consequences of their actions.
Back in the 1990s, during the Clayoquot protests, protesters understood that their actions had consequences. The protesters at the Clayoquot were arrested with over 850 being thrown in jail. Most interestingly, it was not a Conservative or Liberal government that had them arrested and charged, the government of the day was NDP, their allies. You see, the government of the day recognized that their role was to ensure that the law was obeyed irrespective of political stripe.
Since that time our governments have gradually given in to the crybully pressure. Consider the Burnaby Mountain protest. There the police actually asked the protesters which ones wanted to be arrested. Can you imagine a police officer asking a bank robber if he wanted to be arrested?
The decision by our government to not enforce the law has taught activists not to be concerned with the law. Coupled with our school system which emphasizes second, third, fourth and more chances, we are bringing up a generation that wrongly thinks that the rules don't apply to them.
They have been taught that each one of them is special and that their individual wants and needs are more important than those of anyone else around them or even society as a whole. To conclude this piece I will quote Daniel Greenfield again:
Crybullies are everything they claim to abhor. They are narcissists who complain about selfishness. Completely incapable of human empathy, they whine that no one cares about their feelings. They are prone to cowardly acts of violence, but demand safe spaces. They are bullies who say they're bullied.
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Bullying can be an incredibly isolating experience, and many victims feel that they are alone–that something about them, specifically, has brought this on. Explain to your child that bullying is something that can happen to anyone: boys, girls, preschoolers, high schoolers, kids at large schools and kids at small schools. This means there is a large group of people impacted by bullying, and if we all work together, we can certainly make a difference.
A common reaction to bullying is encouraging the victim to ignore the bully. "They just want a reaction," people say, and if you deny them the reaction, they'll go away. That's not always the case. Sometimes, when the bully realizes they are being ignored, they can feel a sense of power over their victim that can actually make the situation worse.
Asking your child basic questions about their day and their experience at school can help you catch a problem sooner. Ask how a specific class was, or who they sat with at lunch. Ask who is trying out for the team, or who is going to local fair that weekend. These harmless questions tell your child that you care, but they can also help you detect changes in your child's situation that may indicate a bullying problem.
While helping your child prepare a speech or enrolling them in self-defense courses might seem like an empowering solution, you're sending the message to your child that this problem is theirs, and that they have to handle it alone. Instead, discuss what some solutions might be and involve your child in the decision making process.
The National Crime Prevention Council reports that 20 to 43 percent of middle and high school school students have reported being victims of cyber bullying. Encourage your child to protect themselves by following these two guidelines: 1. Never say or do anything online that you wouldn't say or do in person. 2. Never share any information that you wouldn't tell a stranger.
While we'd like to think we know everything about our children and their friends, don't express disbelief if they say someone has done something that shocks you. Your child needs to know that they can trust you. Asking them to provide evidence or saying that someone "would never do that" can come across as you taking the side of someone other than your child. Instead, be as supportive as possible and listen to their side.
A recent study of children ages 9 to 12, showed that 56 percent said that they usually either say or do something to try to stop bullying or tell someone who can help (Brown, Birch, & Kancherla, 2005). Make sure your child knows who he or she can talk to if they have something they want to share, whether that is you, a school counselor, a teacher or a coach.
Explain the importance of keeping online passwords private, even from close friends. Your child may be thinking that sharing a password with a close friend is harmless and convenient, but explain that anyone with their password could impersonate them online and embarrass them. If they insist that the friend would never do that, remind them that the friend could share their password, either intentionally or unintentionally, and someone else would have that same power.
While your first reaction may be to protect your child by calling the parent of the bully or confront the child yourself, this is not always a good solution. Not only is this this rarely effective, it may even prove fodder for additional bullying. Your child wants to feel empowered and involved in the solution, so discuss options with him or her and work together to decide on a plan of action.
Your child may be embarrassed or afraid to talk about what is happening to them. This is normal. Rather than pressuring your child into speaking before they are ready, just make it clear that you are willing to listen and be a source of support for them. Once they feel comfortable, they will know that they can open up to you and seek your advice. Better yet, if you've had this conversation preemptively, before a problem arises, your child will know right away that you can be their partner in finding a solution.
Green Giant's Raise A Giant site includes a page that lets you read letters other parents have written to empower their children. You can write your own letter and explore their other resources, including videos and sharable infographics. PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center site also has a page with resources like informational handouts, fact sheets, educational toolkits, and the "We Will Generation." You can also browse the video page to see if some of their video resources would be helpful for you or for your child. Green Giant's Raise A Giant site includes a page that lets you write a letter to empower your child, but you can also read the letters other parents have written to inspire your talks with your child.
Follow Blair King on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BlairKing_ca