Conquering Bullying: speaker says courage key to change threats to young targets, demise of American culture
Written by Phil Cerroni
Courage is like a muscle; we only grow courageous by doing courageous things. – Aristotle
By Sissy Courtney
Coppell Independent School District brought bullying out of the shadows by inviting nationally-recognized speaker and author Paul Coughlin to town Feb. 11 to talk with teachers, administrators, business people, fathers and sons about how to stand up to bullies and dissipate a cloud of fear and suffering that has become a part of American culture.
“We’ve done mother/daughter things with Finding Kind, and Paul is the first person I’ve heard who would be able to talk to fathers and sons on the same topic,” said Michelle King, Coppell ISD Director of Professional Learning. “The main purpose of having him here was to bring more awareness to the topic of bullying and the importance of that whole theater of bullying and to address specific things that individuals and groups can do in those areas.
“The district policy on bullying is already in place and going strong,” King said. “It meets the new legislative guidelines. We always want to be sure that if there is something we can be doing systemically, that is something we would consider doing.”
Coughlin asked his audience how can they could take a cowardly lion and turn it into something courageous.
“We must teach it to smile and take a deep breath,” he said. “It will give him courage.”
He said some students and athletes have trouble getting over their fear of failure.
“You don’t develop courage by watching…it’s done in the doing,” Coughlin said. “But you are swimming upstream,” he said speaking of TV shows like Jersey Shore and Housewives of (various cities) that students and parents watch. “You are being asked to educate and change this character development in a culture that is growing increasingly uncivil and crass, and people are making millions acting like children. I actually had kids boo me when I started saying things about Jersey Shore. I think it’s time for a national dialogue.
Coughlin emphasized the effect of bystanders, who he said have the most potential to diminish bullying. He said over-parenting is sometimes part of the problem.
“(Parents are) using words reserved for the birth of Christ for their kids,” he said. “Heaven forbid if you don’t buy Mom’s definition. Psychologically, it makes (the children) fragile, timid, and non-assertive when we over-parent our kids. It makes them ideal targets for bullies. It is the number one form of violence now that a kid will experience in their lifetime. It’s abuse.”
According to a Harris Interactive Pool (Sep. 2011) bullying is the number one concern among students and parents, more than drugs, sex and gang activity and decreasing test scores, especially among minorities.
“Bullycide, committing suicide because of bullying, is increasing,” Coughlin said. “The bully may not be the reason, but it is a contributing reason. It is increasing probably due to cyber-bullying.”
Over 160,000 kids a day stayed home from school, according to a mid-1990’s poll before taken before cyber-bullying began.
“Certainly that number is higher today,” Coughlin said. “Cyber-bullying is a bully’s dream. We need to set up digital boundaries on the Internet highway…digital citizenship. We would consider having students sign a digital citizenry pledge, and if they default on that pledge, they give up their right to be on certain websites. The right to privacy does not apply to youths; that’s for adults.
“(Authorities) have the right to take rights away (from students) if it benefits the whole school,” Coughlin said. “(Approximately) 85 percent of school shootings have bullying as their motive, according to the Secret Service. They interviewed 37 school shooters and asked them why they did it, and almost every one of them said they did it for revenge for being bullied. The number one target is principals.
“Most serial bullies receive pleasure from dominating, harming and humiliating others. It gives them a rush of pleasure, glee, excitement and superiority. It’s deliberate abuse.
“They plan the demise of other people; they enjoy it. Anyone will do awful things under certain circumstances. We learned at Abu Grey (Prison).
“Some solutions include cultivating protectors,” Coughlin said. “We need heroes, we need protectors, we need people to jump in – those who can resist the power of a situation and act out of noble motives or do not behave in ways that demean others. They have an inner-Popeye.
“We must exult them; we must encourage them; we must make courage cool. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your peers and do the right thing.
“The protectors Program in Chattanooga, TN, is a group of people handpicked by the school to talk about what they are doing (to stand up to bullying) and how they are doing it. The more courageous we become, the stronger we become. Strength and courage go hand in hand.”
Anonymous reporting has proven to help in controlling bullying.
“We need to associate bullying with anti-social behavior because it is,” Coughlin said. “Studies show that bullies are more likely to commit felonies later in life. Bullying is abuse not conflict. Serial bullies don’t listen to peace, love and understanding; they listen to power and what’s in it for me.”
In middle school, a UCLA study from 2013 shows most popular are kids are also identified by the same students as bullies.
“The average bully believes they are superior to other people,” Coughlin said. “If you think you are more important and more valuable than other people, all things become possible. Excessive self-esteem is a very dangerous thing.”
He said those being bullied are going to have to fake it until they can conquer the bully.
“(Victims of bullies) are going to have to pretend (they) are more assertive than (they) really are,” Coughlin said.
His program focuses on the strength, heroic desire, and rescuing capacity bystanders have to transform the “Theater of Bullying” into one of character, freedom and justice.
For more details on The Protectors organization, go to http://theprotectors.org/about/.