If I could ban one word from everyday usage, it would be “bully” and all of its variations.
I agree that bullying is a terrible thing. I was bullied as a kid, most often by a horrible little troll that we all called Tripper. He gave me the name “Crybaby of the Year” and made it his goal to make me cry every day of first and second grade.
Now I understand that it was probably because his real name was Emenefe. I’d probaby be a bully too if I’d been given a name like that.
I was bullied for other things over the years, as were others in my class. In my generation, for that matter. And I wish there had been a place to go for help. I wish someone, anyone would have told me anything more helpful than “Toughen up!”
But suddenly, in our rush to protect our own children from bullying, we have taught today’s young people that everything counts as bullying. Every negative word, every disagreement, every expression of dislike. Every word or action that doesn’t belch sunshine and spew rainbows is automatically branded an act of bullying.
I am afraid that we are raising a generation of young people who are utterly incapable of accepting criticism. We are trying so hard to cushion their existence that we are failing to teach them the difference between criticism and bullying.
Kids need to understand that not everyone is going to like them. Not everyone is going to swoon with delight over their every utterance or creation. “You’re just jelly” is not an appropriate response to criticism. By teaching our children that anything less than gushing praise is an act of bullying or jealousy, we are also teaching them that they can do nothing wrong. That they are perfect. Infallible. Beyond reproach. That they are always Number One in everything that they do.
Kids do need to be taught what to do in the case of true bullying. But the definition they are learning is much too broad. It should be just as important to teach them how to identify it as it is to teach them how to fight it.