phrases teachers/parents/caregivers/peers need to stop telling bullied kids:
“it’s alright, in ten years’ time you’ll be their boss and they’ll be flipping burgers at mcdonalds!”
because, no, okay, listen. the kid that’s being bullied is probably going to have lasting effects from the bullying which will directly impact their ability to get any job, let alone a management role. 6 years (5 of which were spent in therapy) later, I still have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from my bullying which renders me totally unemployable and i can’t count the number of times well-meaning teachers told me it wouldn’t be this way. which, funnily enough, does the exact opposite of helping me feel better about myself.
not only that, but who says flipping burgers at mcdonalds is a bad thing. who says that’s a “punishment” that needs to befall bullies and people who were horrid at school, and not… just something that’s a suitable method of employment for people who don’t have very many formal qualifications? a way of earning money while you’re trying to get experience for a better job? a way of feeding your kids when no other employer would take you?
we need to stop making kids feel like working temp jobs at fast food restaurants is the worst fate that could befall them, because it’s a growing reality for many folk. including folk who were bullied at school.
at best, that phrase gives the kid you’re telling it to an entitlement complex which will see them behaving snobbishly towards their peers and having a breakdown later when they realise that the world doesn’t actually owe them a management job and that they might have to find employment flipping burgers to stay afloat.
at worst, it makes an already mentally ill young adult the sense that they can’t talk to you for support because they’ve let you down somehow by failing to be employable as a result of the bullying they went through and that you were supposed to be helping them with.
it doesn’t address the problem (“this kid is being bullied”), it doesn’t make the bullies stop. which, when a kid comes to you and admits they’re being bullied, is what should be your end goal. treat the disease, not the symptoms. talk to the bullies and find out why they’re behaving the way they are. use your teacher/caregiver training. address the problem that way, not by superficially patching up the self-esteem of the victim so you can feel like you helped when all you really did was make yourself feel better about not doing anything.
The most successful bullies are really, really good at manipulating power systems in ways that give them control over other people. That is a skill set that can make people *more* likely to end up being bosses, not less.
Especially if they have other socially valued skills. Especially if they are in socially valued groups. Especially if their parents have connections.
We need to stop pretending that bullies are all just physically strong kids who are jealous of other kids’ mental powers. That’s not actually how it works. There are bullies like that, but there are also a lot of bullies who are good at school and highly valued by teachers. Being good at school doesn’t make kids kinder, more considerate, or less likely to abuse power. It just makes it slightly more likely that adults will *care* if they are bullied and dramatically more likely that adults will look the other way if they bully others.
Treating people well doesn’t correlate with intellect or employability. It’s something that people need to actively care about and work on, and something that adults need to teach and expect as an end in itself.
All of this! Yes!
Relatedly, I have a growing hatred of the word ‘bullying.’ It seems to me like having this special word we use for kids being horrible to each other — that can cover anything from minor stuff like little kid calling a classmate a poopyhead stealing their cookie, to things as awful as kids literally breaking other kids’ bones or driving them to suicide — is just a cop out for the people who could and should be stopping it, but never do.
Calling it ‘bullying’ is just a way of avoiding calling it what it really is: child abuse.
I feel similarly about “teasing”.
Edited to add: That doesn’t mean that a major campaign to get people to change their language would be a good idea.