“I am a bully” — NPR interview

A great show on NPR Talk of the Nation yesterday about bullying. Neil Conan interviewed Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence.

Wiseman has great insights into bullying. One that stood out for me is her observation that successful bullies are often very socially intelligent, and often operate by influencing others to commit the behaviors we observe. The identified bully may be acting at the bidding of someone else.  In addition, the incidents at the inception of bullying are almost never observed–the first put-down, the first punch.  The incident we observe is just the latest in a chain of incidents.

The implications for restorative practices are that we should be careful about applying the victim/offender paradigm in cases of bullying. It’s rarely that simple. In addition, when we are dealing with bullying incidents its a good idea to investigate what students are influential in the behavior of the identified bully. Those students should be included in the restorative process.

Another observation of Wiseman’s is that bullies are usually convinced that they are in the right, that their behavior is perfectly justified. In other words, bullying often begins with the perception of being a victim.

The call-in portion of the show has some very interesting moments— especially when Mary, a psychologist who is a self-identified bully, calls in. She bullies Neil Conan rather mercilessly, and he seems at moments at a loss as to how to respond.

In addition, Rosalind shares some great insights about the extremely challenging experiences of girls in our culture.

Click here for a link to the episode.


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