Something’s missing from all the recent discourse on Phoebe Prince and bulling — and, no surprise, it’s the same thing that was tragically absent at South Hadley High last year: mindfulness (paying attention to what’s happening in the current moment).
Right now, there’s a huge buzz about bullies, victims and bystanders. And, there should be. But, buzzing tends to drown out the sounds of reason, and the frenzy for retribution can easily distract us from the roots of the problem.
The roots of bullying grow strong when mindfulness, and the qualities of empathy, compassion and kindness are weak. It’s much harder to bully when you see other people as “people like me” rather than some sort of dehumanized “other” (or the ugly epithet de jour).
If we want to stop bullying, we can start by promoting the very qualities that prevent it. There’s good news about this . . . research shows that empathy can be taught, and that social and emotional learning improves outcomes for kids, in terms of overall wellness and academic performance.
We’ve got to prioritize teaching the protective factors, rather than simply punishing the perpetrators, and we have start within ourselves, and then teach our children. It’s time to bring mindfulness to our own experience, intentions and actions. It’s uncomfortable, for sure. But recognizing our pain, grief, anger and fear helps us stay aware of our humanity.