Bullying is on a rampant rise. Either that statement is true or it is being acknowledged and more openly discussed now like never before.
Bullying is not restricted to schools or colleges. There is a bully in every walk of life -- a colleague at the workplace, a co-passenger on public transport, the neighbour next door, the stranger who cuts through the queue or even a person within the confines of our own home. We deal with one at least every single day.
A few kids rough up a single kid on the playground, a fresher at a college gets ridiculed and is isolated for being nerdy, an executive thrusts his ideas upon others and behaves badly with co-workers, a spouse or a partner imposes restrictions and threatens to hurt -- all of these are classic examples of bullying in its various manifestations.
Their behaviour is a reflection of what they are witnessing at home, at school and in society at large.
As a witness to an increasing pattern of this behaviour all around me, I am compelled to think of reasons for its origin.
If you think of it, no one is really born a bully. So how does one become a bully?
An infant is the most innocent and purest soul that you can find. A toddler's ear-to-ear grin and love for life is dangerously addictive. And then a child steps in to the initial machinery of life, such as a classroom, a playground or any group-learning place.
That is when for the first time you start hearing things such as "he/she is such a bully." Maybe not in those exact words always, but very often we have heard stories from children on how a classmate got into a fight with them and hurt them, a friend made them play a game they did not want to, someone bothered them on the bus ride to school, teased them or poked fun at their dress, hairdo or lunch.
It begins there in the formative years and then this behaviour continues well into adult life. Bullying does not have to be physical always, and mental aggression can be even more traumatic. A bully's end goal is to overpower, demean and make another person feel inferior.
The colleague who misbehaves on a conference call and constantly demeans someone's ideas, the neighbour who talks in an offensive tone every time you meet her, the person who breaks into a queue and gets abusive when others complain about it or even a family member in your own home who is always disrespectful to others -- they all were infants once. They were all polite and well-behaved at one point of time.
It is never an overnight transformation. Children learn by what they see around them. Their behaviour is a reflection of what they are witnessing at home, at school and in society at large. It could be an influence from a book, a game on the PS2 or a movie. It could be the child's attempt to mimic an older sibling or confrontations between the parents. Many a times it is a re-enactment of the behaviour that is meted out to them. And sadly, sometimes the child is fighting just too hard to stay away from a label that has been bestowed on him.
Not every child who is aggressive is a bully, not every child who is quiet is shy and timid. The labels hurt them the most. More than we can imagine.
So let's be proactive and see what we can do to not raise a bully. We -- the parents, the educators and the citizens of this society -- are responsible for watching and keeping a check and helping stop an innocent child from transforming into an arrogant bully.
When our children are bullied, we work hard to teach them to stand up and fight for themselves.
When our children are the ones who are bullying, we need to work harder. We need to find the influence and the reason behind the behaviour. We need to stop labelling them. We also need to stop defending them, even if we are in public. We need to stop ignoring and sweeping the issue under the rug. It will not go away. Let's stop pretending.
We don't want to raise a bully, do we? We don't, because no one is born a bully.
This post has previously appeared on Piya Mukherjee Kalra's blog at Chatoveracuppa.
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