Bullying is a disease of the brain. And until we tame the brain with our hearts, each of us is at risk of being a bully in some way, most tragically with our children. I have learned many things from having a special needs child, but this one has been one of my greatest teachers.
You see, until we understood what our son was dealing with in his own brain and body, we thought he was just behaving badly — intentionally. We interpreted his behaviors through a lens of “how children should behave.” Full stop. Doesn’t everyone? Even the specialists we took him to measured him based on a standard of “normal” or compliant, rather than inquiring about WHAT was interfering with his natural human desire to be part of rather than in opposition to his tribe.
Our culture has a very rigid view of children. Yes, we debate parenting styles and love to gnash on entitlements or privileges or perceived failures or short comings, but the truth is that a narrow set of behaviors are rewarded and the rest are thwarted to some degree, often involving violence (spanking, beating, bully fights, gangs, “military school,” prison). And all too often, if we cannot control our misanthropes physically, we drug them.
Very few in our culture attempt to understand those who “fail” to conform or behave as desired by this system of expectations. I believe this is a critical time to increase this knowledge base or we may see our recalcitrant populations explode.
The result of this culturally based institutionalized rubric for “raising a well behaved child” is that we layer on rules and expectations without regard for what is happening to our children biologically. We, as a culture, have a very authoritarian punitive standard to which everyone must conform. Science is struggling to investigate and offer solutions. We are losing the race on many fronts, but there is one left that always works.
Love. And by love, I mean heart.
I would like to suggest that if we organized our communities, schools, organizations, teams around the HEART rather than the brain, the incidence of bullying would dissipate. Because I believe that bullying is a disease that is transmitted through the brain, if we can infect the heart with understanding, compassion and acceptance of visible and INVISIBLE differences among children and consequently the larger populations, the intensity of conflicts and bullying would fade away.
Imagine assuming nothing and inquiring instead?
Imagine including rather than excluding?
Imagine finding common ground rather isolating?
Our children do not need to be punished. They need to be understood and valued. If a child is truly valued, then how or why they struggle matters. The approach is no longer about punishment, but support.
Dr. Hallowell famously said that ADHD children are the battered children of history. I would argue it’s not just ADHD kids. We have an epidemic rate of childhood learning, developmental, health and behavior challenges happening right now and it’s escalating. Most children appear to be burdened by various health, sensorial, processing or behavioral differences to some degree. This means that one size cannot fit all. It just can’t. And expecting all these children to perform to a narrow ideal is rather sadistic.
Every one of us is a bully as long as we cling to an ideal and adult expectation of childhood behavior, especially those expectations borne of eras gone by when healthy brain function was not under threat DAILY from poisoned air, water, soil, frankenfoods, stealth viruses (PANS, PANDAS), pathogenic bacteria (implicated recently in autism), as well as so called modern chemically derived medicines.
I can already hear the chorus of parents and others saying “But, but, but….”
The children are struggling and need us to open our eyes and our hearts. They want to find their place, their purpose and their gifts. But many of them are physically hampered due to the toxic world they’ve been born into. Our children are not immune to what is happening in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Would you shame a fish for being born without fins? Our children deserve more credit and way more support.
One of my personal breakthroughs as a parent was learning at Brain Balance how intelligence and perception can be literally locked inside a brain where the pathways are jumbled or crossed or leading into dead ends. It’s not that the child refuses to read or listen, it’s that he/she CANNOT.
My son was not trying to disobey or disrespect me. He literally could not do what I asked. If I asked him to do three or four different tasks in one sentence, he dropped the first three entirely from his memory to grasp the last. Once I began to see his behaviors as struggles rather than defiance, the tension and conflict simmered enough for us to peel the onion of his misfiring body and brain. We were able to make better therapeutic choices for him that improved his wellbeing and behavior incredibly.
What if there was a way to empower ALL children (and adults) to reach out and befriend kids with special needs?
What if rather than “anti bullying” campaigns, schools and teams began “PRO FRIENDSHIP” campaigns where any child who sits alone or outside the game, the project, the adventure, is made a critical participant?
What if the child who misbehaves is circled and supported rather than taunted, isolated or punished?
Can you imagine the shift?
I think it’s time to inoculate our brains with a big dose of heart centered LOVE. Like these boys are doing:
This gives me HOPE friends! So much hope! If these boys can figure out that what special needs kids need most is a friend, there is hope for all of us.
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