The +Works program supports families and schools interested in building positive, upstanding communities where adults deal assertively and constructively with power dynamics and other issues of concern at home, in their workplaces, and in their communities. We believe children study the behavior they witness via important adults in their lives: parents, guardians, relatives, teachers, administrators, faith leaders, coaches, and local business and community leaders. As adults at home, at work, and in our neighborhoods, we have an extraordinary opportunity to get ahead of bullying and other trending community concerns by flipping the switch on our thinking in a few key areas:
We are all in this together. A +Community is a community where people work together to raise vibrant, resilient, productive citizens. We are all involved in getting ahead of the issue of adult and student bullying. Whether it’s in person, on a cell phone, or on the internet, bullying is a social process — not a person and we all have a role to play in creating communities where altruism trumps coercion and where our children can feel safe and free to be themselves and to learn and grow. We need to unite around this common ground and aim high for peace.
We are all — adults and children — bullies, targets, and bystanders in some capacity at some time … if we’re honest about it. In their groundbreaking book, Why School Antibullying Programs Don’t Work, Drs. Stuart Twemlow and Frank Sacco share their conclusions and an innovative way to reframe the issue of bullying as a social process that we enable through our lack of action. Think of your own interactions with your family. Are there times when you push your point with your partner, your spouse, your child, your neighbor a bit too aggressively to get your way? Are there times when those same people in your life push their point too aggressively with you and you fail to speak up effectively, leaving you feeling unheard and targeted? Are there times when you watch someone in your life bully someone else and you just stand there — frozen? It’s the everyday accumulative effect of these normal but negative power dynamics that can land any of us in a role that we can’t seem to escape. When we stop labeling each other and start giving each other room to move from bully, target, or bystander to upstander … then we are on our way to building more peaceful homes, schools, and communities.
Bullies only do what bystanders allow. This is another brilliant concept we embrace from Drs. Stuart Twemlow and Frank Sacco. For elementary school children, children only do what adults allow. As children get older, adults remain important, but peers become more of a force in children’s lives. And in terms of adult bullying, we only do to each other — at home, at work, in our neighborhhoods — what we allow each other to do. We must find our positive voices as adults and become the upstanding people we envision our children becoming.
We can build resilience by reframing negatives into “learn-something” positives — and teach our children to do the same. We must have the courage to embrace our mistakes as well as the mistakes our children will inevitably, and need to, make, to learn important life lessons. Accountability is key.
We must model the behavior we want to see. As families and communities, we must say no to gossip and yes to positive, upstanding action on the issues that keep us up at night. We have to be the change we seek. As the old saying goes, “Talk is cheap.” And when that talk is gossip, and not our story to tell, the cost can be perilously high. In contrast, speaking up in the moment when we witness negative behavior can quite possibly save a life.
This is not about perfection. It’s about mindfulness. Being mindful of our choices, of the example we are setting, is key. We also believe in the importance of marveling openly at and celebrating the positive things that happen constantly in our world — including the brave choices ordinary people make every single day. Let’s celebrate the +News and upstanding choices we make and witness and share it in our classrooms and at our dinner tables.
The process of creating change takes time. Community change is possible when we know in our hearts that is needed. The +Works process is a marathon, not a sprint and requires extraordinary courage and leadership on the part of ALL stakeholders: parents, educators, students, coaches, business and community leaders. We are all in this together!
Change comes one +Voice at a time. Each of us has an opportunity to create positive change in our homes, schools, workplaces, and community. We believe change is possible when a community’s expectation is that people of all ages will do their best to be upstanders and to speak up when necessary, especially when it’s difficult. Communities can change and evolve in a positive way, one voice at a time.