There is no question that bullying is wrong.
Studies have shown it leads to higher suicide rates and poor academic performance, in addition to the long-term damage against students’ self-esteem. As a result, children who are bullied need counselling, but bullies themselves also often need counselling. Fundamentally, bullies bully to make themselves feel better over the short-term as a result of low self-esteem.
Since many bullies are often bullied at home or in other environments, their bullying behaviour is often a ripple effect from their own feelings of powerlessness. They are looking to gain a feeling of power, purpose and/or control over someone else. “They soon find out that this sense of control is short-lived and false, causing them to lose more self-confidence which then causes them to bully again. The cycle of bullying continues due to this low sense of self-esteem,” says Tinka.
Empowered Me has worked with bullies as well as those who have been bullied. From the perspective of the bullies, they begin from elementary school age where they tease and exclude other children from playing with them. It makes them feel powerful but never happy.
As they get older, bullying graduates to name-calling which then becomes the norm. They see bystanders as threats but sometimes it is an opportunity to show off their power. The bullies are not always popular, and seek attention through other means, often times being the class clown. For one Empowered Me student, he acknowledged that being taken to the principal’s office was a sure-fire way to get attention from his parents.
Last year, Empowered Me worked with a group of girls at a summer camp in Edmonton. One of the exercises gave different girls varying levels of power through role play. The bullies were easily identifiable at that point as they were given permission to bully and were quick to take that power for themselves – free to reign over others without consequences.
Through the workshop, Tinka worked with these girls who were bullying other girls and explored how they do not feel good about doing it, over the long term. In the moment they may enjoy the power but once they are alone, in their own space, they are no longer comfortable with themselves or their actions. “The girls realized they were bullying to reach out for help,” says Tinka. “Thankfully we were able to provide them with the necessary tools needed to build their self-esteem and self-confidence over the long-term. We’ve seen great results with them.”
For more information about programs offered by Empowered Me, visit https://empoweredme.ca/programs/.