When I was a child, the old mantra "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" was spoken like it was the most important phrase of the day. Growing up the middle child--a girl with two brothers--gave me power to stick up for myself to some degree.
Now, however, it seems it is much more important to try to keep the peace than to empower the child who is being bullied. Cartoons, after-school programming and movies have all provided an empowered child who has overcome odds to beat the bully at his own game, and the results were always positive for both the bully and the bullied.
When a child is bullied, there are no effective repercussions against the bully and there are no strengthening skills given to the bullied children. School bully programs show what a bully is and that a child should tell on a bully. What does that get the bullied child, then? The child is stalked, threatened, and sometimes even killed--either by their own hand or by the bully.
Give the child who is being picked on some empowerment. Words can only hurt if you let them. People are only offended if they allow it to happen. Building thicker skin on a child is a huge asset as they will be able to perform in high school, college, and the workforce against more odds.
Hug a child and you get a hugging child. Empower a child and you get a strong child who is able to face the world head-on without fainting at the moment someone says something that he perceives is mean. The world is not a kind and gentle place. The way to get a child to succeed is to teach them how to succeed instead of putting an umbrella on them every time it rains.
Cowboys, Indians, Muslims, even the Irish--all learned how to be tough. They learned how to take care of themselves, and they did not go crying to a teacher, parent, or other adult when they were treated poorly. They all take matters into their own hands.
Of course some behavior is unacceptable but to call it all bullying is to negate the real trouble. If a child is hit by another child, they are not being bullied, they are being assaulted. If a child screams threats at another child, the screamer might be having trouble at home, and maybe he needs to be empowered too.
Bullies are mean because that is what they learned. Breaking the cycle cannot be accomplished by punishment nor can it be accomplished by babying the bullied. We do not want our children taking their own lives, so stop making them weak enough to decide to do that.
Empower our children and we will have fewer bullies because they won't have victims to bully around.