If only a law would stop bullying

Two stories in the Boston Globe today caught my attention.

The first describe how an anti-smoking campaign has worked. More people on the state health insurance have quit smoking, which resulted in fewer emergency room visits. Education, support and empowerment worked to convince people to change their smoking behavior.

The second story describes some of the 11 bills before the Massachusetts legislature to stop bullying. Some 38 states have already passed laws to regulate bullying in schools. I wonder how they’re working.

House Bill 384 would prohibit bullying on school grounds and at school functions and would require staff to report cases of bullying.  The mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover testified about how peers bullied Carl and called him “gay.” The 11-yearpold killed himself out of desperation.

I wish that House Bill 384 could bring back Carl. I wish that passing a law would force us to change our behavior.

Most behavior is learned. Most bullies learn cruelty at home. A better investment for the anti-bullying crusaders would be to initiate parenting education for all mothers and fathers to teach them how to discipline their children without bullying them.

The root of discipline is disciple. A disciple is a pupil. Discipline is to teach. When we teach our children by threatening, yelling, berating, beating and punishing, we teach them the only way we can influence them is to be bigger, meaner and louder.

Sounds like a bully to me.

Outlawing bullying will not make it go away any more than prohibition eliminated drinking. Take a lesson from the smoking cessation campaign. What worked was education, support and empowerment. The same formula will work to create a generation of children who do not bully each other.

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