To Unlearn


Instead of trying to teach awareness and acceptance maybe the answer is to “unlearn.”

I recently met up with a friend I haven’t seen since high school and which was many moons ago.  We had a wonderful time reconnecting and philosophizing about life and where it has taken us.  When you sit down with a friend from high school the conversation inevitably leads to talk about who we have run into from way back when and how that went.  This lead to one of the not so easy mine field of the teenage years….bullying.

Reminiscing about high school and running into people from those days and how uncomfortable it is when you remember that this person used to do terrible things to a friend or to yourself. But now years later this nemesis wants to friend you off Facebook or eat in your restaurant like an old friend. Why are they doing this? Do they remember who they used to be? Have they changed? Should I open my arms to them and pretend the past is in the past? I say pretend because bullying leaves deep wounds that’s still sting even after the passage of time.

He pointed out that children are not born to be bullies and to be mean. They are “taught” these prejudices and instead of teaching them to be more tolerant, they need to “unlearn” how to hate. It’s an interesting and provocative concept.  Especially when you are dealing with bullying at a school playground that seemed to have escalated week by week. Does punishing the bullies work? Once they are now hating other children and tormenting them can we really just show them the expectation of how to be a good friend at the playground? Is the better strategy to confront the learned behaviour of hating another person and helping the child “unlearn” this.

As a mother of an Autistic son I worry about bullying. He is and will be a vulnerable person more then the next child for many years to come. I am glad that where we sent him to school that right away when the children are young they are taught empathy and to look out for each other. The older children in grade 8 are expected to mentor the younger children.  When we leave the school with my son the older children all know who my son is and say bye to him.  Instead the children are actively being taught from a young age tolerance, empathy,  and acceptance.

Thank you to my friend for a wonderful lunch, reunion, and a thoughtful insightful discussion.


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