This article contains two excerpts from the beginning and end of The Bullying Antidote: Superpower Your Kids for Life, by Dr. Louise Hart and Kristen Caven. The book explores how ACEs are created by stress, change, beliefs, and tradition, and provides a guide to positive parenting so that parents can prevent them in their children and communities.
The Bullying Antidote: Zorgos
Bullying is a power dynamic where one person exerts control over another physically, emotionally, or socially. Bullying can be persistent—a focused and repeated pattern—or it can be a single, traumatic event. In the bullying dynamic, one person always loses.
There is no pill, no quick fix for the enormous problem of bullying. But there are thousands of solutions…and we’d like you to have access to them all.
There is a superpower with which we’d like to endow your child, and all children. This power enables them to repel bullies and transform their relationships; it allows them to get what they need without resorting to bullying.
Your child, by possessing this superpower, will:
- Use their heart and mind for the greater good,
- Refuse to put up with bad treatment from peers or from strangers,
- Recognize bullying and stop it before it starts,
- Trust themselves and inspire others,
- Become a model to others with their upstanding qualities, and
- Uplift those around them to think and act in positive ways.
Not only does this superpower prevent bullying, but in fact, it is the antidote to bullying. This superpower is both a challenge to and a balm for the culture of negativity that has been passed down through generations—and is now practiced by families, peers, and the media. An antidote restores health, happiness, and balance, so life can go on about its business.
What is this superpower? Is it friendship? Is it problem-solving? Is it understanding? Yes, it is all of these things. It is also empathy, compassion, connection, kindness, and respect. It is safety, self-esteem, and human rights. It is relationship, assertiveness, peace, wholeness, and foresight. It is resiliency.
But to make this huge superpower concept easier to remember, we’re just going to call it Zorgos.
People who have Zorgos are bigger than bullying. You know people like this. You know people who are great leaders, who are peacemakers, who are insightful and kind. They are powerful individuals! People with Zorgos are mentally healthy, emotionally intelligent. They keep their balance, they believe in themselves, and they influence others to be better people.
What we nurture is what we get. Instead of nurturing bullying, we need to invest in Zorgos at every level of society.
And just in case you were wondering, Zorgos is the Esperanto word for “I will take care.”
Zorgos! The New Normal
“Families need families. Parents need to be parented. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles are back in fashion because they are necessary.” —T. Berry Brazelton, acclaimed pediatrician and author
Kristen once had an unforgettable conversation with Michele Mason, a beloved San Francisco educator of new moms who inspired UNICEF’s Child-Friendly Cities initiative with her work. They were talking about a recent article about how we are hard-wired for war. But Michele had seen a story of a dog in Africa that had rescued an abandoned newborn baby: she saw how animals (including humans) are hard-wired for nurturing. “The force of nurturing is so strong that it crosses the boundaries of species,” she said. “Without this force, humanity would not have survived, and it certainly would not have thrived. Nurturing is stronger than war, and we shouldn’t be so afraid to rely on it in ourselves.”
Nurturing is certainly the opposite of bullying. Bullying is cold, short-term, and destructive. Nurturing is warm, long-term, and constructive.
It is in the American character to build Zorgos into our kids. Having freedom has always meant having a conscience. It means standing up for yourself with confidence. It means looking for solutions to problems. It means hard work, caring for yourself, looking out for others, and protecting the weak until they find their own strength. It means grit.
Expand your Supports
“Parenting never used to be—and was never intended to be—a one or two person job.” —Pam Leo
Personal power starts from within, but as in the high school hallway story that began this chapter, it becomes superpower when it is supported by others.
Think about the lives of your grandparents. For hundreds of generations, built-in safety nets helped people survive. Yet enormous changes to basic structures of world cultures have disrupted everything during the last 100 years. Our traditional safety nets of nurturing are frayed, and, in many cases, broken or gone.
When fishermen mend their nets, they find the holes, reconnect the broken threads, and repair one hole after another. We need to repair the safety nets for our families by reinforcing the natural social bonds, by connecting with real friends, developing supports, one by one. Reweaving safety nets brings meaning, satisfaction, support and great pleasure to people’s lives.
The hardest part in changing family patterns is not the horrible reckoning that begins the process, nor is it the difficult mustering of the guts to put one’s intention into words. Those are difficult moments, but the hardest part is the long-term growth and stabilization of that vision. No one can do this alone! Adults, just like children, are influenced by peers. The conversations we have, the news we watch and listen to, the interactions with other adults—all of these things influence us. It is essential that you find a buddy who shares your vision of positive parenting. Or better yet, a community. It’s fine to start with a counselor or a class, but don’t stop there—make real friends. The choice to get support makes all the difference.
Parents must make an effort to build bonds that will sustain them over the years. It takes time to nurture connections. Adults who have ongoing significant contact—grandparents, aunts and uncles, child-care providers, neighbors—are part of a child’s extended family and safety net. We can re-weave the webs that connect us, so we have a safety net for when we slip, or when our kids slip. We need many caring people in our lives. And when we extend our families, we expand our lives.
Instead of nurturing bullying, let’s get to work with our voices and our vote to nurture Zorgos! Call, write, and talk with elected officials, entertainment companies, insurance companies, corporations and schools to build communities everywhere that nurture:
- Tolerance—curtailing hatred, bullying, and bigotry while boosting respect, kindness and understanding.
- Human rights awareness
- Resilience training
- Assertive Communication training
- Positive psychology and optimism
- Positive parenting
- Social and emotional skills development
What we nurture is what we get. Instead of nurturing bullying, we need to superpower our kids with Zorgos at every level of society.