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2017 – The year of the bully

I apologise in advance for writing a sad end-of-year blog, but I’ve seen a lot of sadness and hurt this year, and I don’t want a repeat of that in 2018.

10 things I have learned this year:

  1. Children and young people are deeply affected by bullying and not enough are confident that it will be dealt with properly in their school or that their parents know what to do if they talk about it at home.
  2. There are some fantastic schemes to prevent and tackle bullying in place right now in schools throughout Wales, although I would like to see these available to all children in every school. These include Restorative Approaches and the KIVA programme from Finland.
  3. Children from a very young age can lead interventions to tackle bullying if trained and supported, asking sensible questions like ‘what happened?’, ‘how did it affect you?’, ‘what needs to happen next?’
  4. Adults in many workplaces have not learned how to take this approach, perhaps because they didn’t learn it at a young age.
  5. Accusations of bullying and misuse of power can happen at all levels, including the Welsh Government Cabinet, Parliament and Hollywood.
  6. Although I get asked on a regular basis about the problem of online bullying by children and young people, it seems this type of behaviour is normal by some adults in the public sphere on social media.
  7. It is not confined to online platforms. Newspaper headlines can be used to bully judges and MPs who have gone about their jobs in good faith.
  8. In the last week I’ve witnessed a prominent figure in Wales, angry about alleged bullying in Welsh Government, publicly describing a director of a leading Welsh charity as a ‘self-righteous sycophant’ and ‘subsidy junky’ via Twitter.
  9. I feel saddened that those who have legitimate questions to ask about institutional bullying would themselves resort to oppressive language.
  10. Adults in all walks of life have a lot to learn from those primary school children about the power of restorative approaches.

Let’s not make 2018 another year of the bully. Adults as well as children need to learn to recognise and call out bullying, to stop seeing their online lives as a free-for-all for their uncensored thoughts, but to address others with the same respect as they would do in a face-to-face meeting – as they would like others to address them and those they care about.

When small children have a spat they are told to ‘play nicely’. Let’s try to ‘play nicely’ in 2018 whatever our age.