By Lee Xin Ying
Kindness. How do we understand what kindness is? A simple gratitude. A small hand shake. A moment of shared laughter. However, I would say the best form of kindness is understanding. Being understanding to others, the people around you, is the best form of kindness one could give to another.
Personally, I have experienced a lot of kindness from other people. I think with every enlightened mind, the world starts moving towards a better place. I would like to share the story of kindness.
The first week of April is scheduled as National Kindness Week initiated by a national campaign called #StandTogether. The campaign is sponsored by R.AGE, SP Setia and Star Media Group with programme partners including UNICEF, DIGI, Ministry of Education and Petrosains. The campaign partners are Teach for Malaysia, 100% Project and Study Hub. The purpose of this campaign is to build a safer environment for students at schools, in order to counter the acts of bullying. Schools should be a safe place for students to enjoy their childhood and study.
In conjunction with the #StandTogether campaign, Dr. Goh Chee Leong, CEO of Help International School, gave a public talk on “Creating a culture of kindness against bullying” recently.
He touched on the topic of bullying: it’s definition, the different forms of bullying, the impact of bullying, the psychological understanding of what drives bullying, the signs and symptoms of being the victim of bullying and the bully itself as well as a cultural shift towards kindness and what can we do to help them.
So, essentially why do people bully? There are several reasons as to why bullying occurs such as: attention seeking, peer pressure or group culture, social status, prejudice, modelling from television series or movies, outlet of frustration, anger and bitterness, narcissistic or self-centeredness, entertainment purpose and discrimination of people with difference.
Goh exclaimed that schools should be an opportunity to model or a point of reference for how society should be like.
As parents, educators, social workers, or any community members who wish to help victims of bullying, Goh emphasized the importance of journeying with them with understanding, build a healthy self-image and self-worth, move the feeling of helplessness or the loss of control by coaching to a centre locus of control (for example, we define ourselves), identifying the problem and solving problems and move the feeling of hopelessness (despair, depression, suicidal) by giving hope to the children. It is important to address the feeling of loneliness that they might face in the event of bullying.
Goh also presented some ways to help children who bully others, from changing prejudice to celebrating differences, from impunity to zero tolerance (practical actions should be taken), from destructiveness to constructiveness (with healthy outlets of emotions such as physical activity to channel the pent up energy), moving false power to real power (real power is defined as having the power to help and enable, having control over self, or centeredness), from peer pressure to moral courage (as compared to breaking the will of the children) and from brokenness to healing with love and understanding (stating a firm stand for the children).
Bullying and children with special needs
According to Goh, certain practical steps can be taken to ensure the safety and protection of these children in schools.
Self-advocacy among children with special needs plays an important role in helping themselves to ensure the system would protect them, This of course requires the cooperation of the wider community to ensure the safety of these children.
Goh stressed that though self-advocacy is important, these children should not be left to feel all alone in their fight against bullying. Good schools should already have a platform for this type of self-advocacy and be prepared to help these children and should not let them feel isolated.
In cases of children with special needs committing acts of bullying, similar actions should be taken to stop the bullying. Children with special needs are given special support but this does not mean that children with special needs will be given special treatment as Goh shared.
“In many cases they have already felt that they are isolated even before the bullying begun. There is this sense of being different from others. Once people are isolated and alone, it is very tiring to try to always fight back. In many cases, these children are not supported by schools and they are easily targeted. Thus, in a supportive school environment, it creates opportunities for them to be part of a community and have friends so that they don’t feel isolated and alone.” explained Goh.
He further stressed the importance of being part of a community. In the event of something bad happens, they know that they are not alone and there are people who would speak up to address certain inappropriateness of the event.
Goh also stressed that any forms of cruelty should not be tolerated.
“We need to create a different kind of culture to replace the culture of bullying. We should stop demonising children who bully as hurt leads to more hurt and violence leads to more violence,” explained Goh.
“The idea of children learning through modelling and using harsh treatment to stop the bullying only teach the children who bullies how to avoid getting caught. However, by cultivating a culture of kindness and by incorporating positive values to children through good examples or practice from the educators, parents or guardians will be able to break the cycle of bullying.”