Misconceptions – Normalisation of Behaviour
There are a great many myths surrounding bullying which provide an obstacle to the development of a whole school community approach (involving staff, students, parents and the wider community) to preventing and countering bullying. Some of the most widely heard and challenging can come from adults, including school staff, and are:
- There is no bullying in our school
- Bullying is a normal part of growing up
- I was bullied at school and it didn’t do me any harm
- Bullying is character building
- It will make a man of him
- Sticks & Stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you
- Don’t tell or you’re a snitch
Children hearing these comments are either denied the validity of their experience (no bullying in our school) or hear adults ‘normalising’ the bullying process.
Rationale for these Misconceptions
It would not be unreasonable to suggest that those adults who make these comments have either never been bullied, or bullied others themselves when young, and as per the characteristics of a bully, have still not developed the empathy for others they lacked, and rationalised their own behaviour as positive.
It may also be the case that in trying to ‘normalise’ bullying behaviour as something that happens to everyone, adults are mistakenly trying to comfort the victim that this is a rite of passage they must pass through. In reality this simply puts more pressure on the victim to deal with it themselves, including trying to retaliate which may lead them into further trouble. In addition, if they cannot deal with it, it leads to feelings of inadequacy and diminished self worth.
The fallacy that ‘bullying does not exist in our school’ is one of wishful thinking, or a misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the school, as highlighted in such studies as the Nationwide Survey of Bullying of all Irish schools, where not one school was proven to be bullying free. A schools reputation is better served as being known as a school that actively prevents and combats bullying rather than denying it.
One of the most insidious of myths, perpetrated often by both peers and adults is that of it being ‘wrong to tell’, with those who do being threatened with the label of ‘rat’ or ‘snitch’. It is the greatest challenge to educators trying to prevent and combat bullying as openness about/reporting bullying is key.
- No child should be encouraged not to tell
- No child should feel ashamed of telling
- No child should be left to deal with a problem themselves
To do so leaves children, among other things:
- Feeling Isolated
- Fearing reprisals
- Feeling as if bullying is socially acceptable
- With no confidence in an adult’s ability to help
- Feeling as if this is the way they or others should be treated
- With low self esteem or guilt, if they cannot help themselves or someone else
Suggested Further Reading & Links
10 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Bullying - http://bullying.about.com/od/Basics/a/10-Common-Myths-And-Misconceptions-About-Bullying.htm
Myths About Bullying - http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources-files/myths-about-bullying-tipsheet.pdf
Myths and misperceptions about school bullying - http://www.bullyonline.org/schoolbully/myths.htm
Understanding School Bullying (2010) O’Moore, M. Veritas. Dublin