Childhood is often idealized. Carefree is the synonym almost everybody uses when they are trying to describe this period of life. Coming from a time distance, from a perspective of an adult, it seems so. The children’s world is a micro-society with its own structure. These thoughts run through my head while watching a documentary called “It’s a Girl’s World” (2004) by Canadian director Lynn Glazier. The movie is about the culture of bullying and myth-busting that this social side-effect is normal during childhood development, precisely in a girl’s world. It’s pretty late, but I’m determined to watch it till the end.
I’m incredibly impressed by one segment when one of the girls gives a specific example of the model of how bullies establish their power and control. The conversation goes something like this: “The sky is pink,” says one of the girls in power. “No, it’s blue,” says the other girl. The girl in power is mad at her because she doesn’t have the same opinion and bullies her. “Everyone stands on the side of powerful people, and I’m usually not one of them. Everybody says that it’s good to have your own opinion, but I don’t know why it’s good; I don’t get it. Every time you have your opinion, they are mean to you”, says the bullied girl.
The girl is confused–should or shouldn’t she have her own opinions? What is good and what is wrong? Who are the good people/kids, and who are the bad? Why is the bullies’ group always bigger? These kids’ world is undoubtedly not one of laughter, happiness, songs, peace, play, and joy, but a dangerous world of mind games where they feel insecure.
Where do kids learn that type of behavior? – I think to myself. A child’s cry and shouts that tear the silence and reveal fear interrupt my thoughts. It’s still hot, so all the windows and doors are open. A sudden feeling of uneasiness flows over my body, so I rush towards the balcony, and I see a car and two officers. The presence of the police calms me down. Actually, they are two traffic officers who were doing routine control. The driver stands in front of the car. One of the officers is reserved, and the other is agitated according to his body movements. The driver raises his right hand, holding his phone. The nervous officer pulls him by the arm, presses him onto the car, and takes his phone. A loud cry from the inside of the vehicle is heard again. A woman gets out from the back door holding a six to seven-year-old upset and distressed child. She takes him in her arms and moves away from the car to protect him from sight. But the child turns his head back and meets his father’s eyes, who is pressed on the car, helpless.
The traffic officer obviously breaches the code of ethics, the one thing separating him from other people. In a situation where he should stand as an example, he abuses his authority to feel superior, thinking that the uniform and the badge give him the right he actually obtains himself. He uses unnecessary force, humiliates and harasses, and all that in front of witnesses. It’s easy to imagine how this looks in the eyes of a small child. The law strictly says that if there is a child in a vehicle, it should be taken care of. So, the child should be protected, not exposed to such behavior. We can’t be sure what kind of impact this experience will have on his life in the future because some scenes are never forgotten, but they stay carved in our memory. The child is confused; who is the good guy and who is the bad guy–the officer or his father? What’s going on here? How will the child interpret this? Children face the contradicting dilemmas of what’s good or what’s bad from the earliest age. We tell them that officers are good people, and then they witness something like this. We tell them it’s good to have their own opinion, but they end up being bullied when they do.
Therefore, the answer to my question where and how children learn is easy. Adults are role models for them. They watch them and copy their behavior in relation with other kids.
Violent behavior and bullying are behaviors that are learned. They’re not about anger, rage, or annoyance. It’s a hostile behavior directed towards another human being to hurt or humiliate him without compassion or shame because that’s the only way a bully can feel superior and significant.
A statement from John Cleese recently heard comes to my mind: “People who cannot control their emotions want to control other people’s behavior.”