MAKING THE BUS MONITOR CRY: WHY THE BOYS DID IT
Why did these boys continue to say and do such hurtful things for over ten minutes? Was it because they hoped their actions would encourage the monitor to make some improvements in her life? This seems doubtful because their actions plainly demonstrated that they had absolutely no desire to help this woman. Was it because they were playfully teasing her? This is a bit more likely. Immature people, because of their lack of empathy, may come to believe that to be successful at this game you must seek to make a person feel as rotten as you can.
These two reasons for criticizing someone—the desire to encourage improvement and playful teasing—were discussed in my last post. Today I’d like to discuss what I believe is a more likely reason why these boys acted the way they did.
The Desire to Form a Bond with a Group by Putting Down Non-group Members
Many people have a desire to join together in a common cause. That’s one big reason why playing a games like baseball can be so much fun. Hit a homer, or even a ground ball that brings in the winning run, and your group is patting you one the back and the fans are cheering. When immature people express this desire, because of their lack of empathy, they can join together with others to humiliate a minority or one or more individuals who are viewed as too powerless to defend themselves.
Sometimes we see this sort of behavior occur when a new girl starts a new school.
In the bus monitor situation that we saw in the viral YouTube video, there was just one bus monitor and several boys who began to criticize her weight and to seek to humiliate her in a host of other ways. This sure looks like a classic situation in which a group of immature individuals sought to band together in a common cause.
When someone faces these types of difficult situations, what is a respectable way to respond? No single blog post can fully answer this question, but I would like to throw out some ideas for your consideration. Let’s begin with a parable.
The Parable of Jason and Ron
As we look at the pictures of this parable, let me add some details. When Jason says, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Ron,” he looks squarely into Ron’s eyes. Then he gives Ron a slight nod of his head and goes on his way. Throughout the interaction between Jason and Ron, Jason remains friendly, while at the same time, self-assured.
When I was in school, one day I noticed a boy handle a similar situation like Jason. The other students seemed to respect how the boy handled the teasing. So I began to rehearse this style in front of a mirror over the course of a few days. The next time one of the older students teased me, I gave it a try. It ended up working just fine.
Now I understand that the bus monitor in the video was under a contract agreement that she could not just give a nod to the four boys and then walk away. And so, what might she have done that was better than her approach? Here’s one possibility.
She could have looked each of the boys in their eyes and made it clear that she understood what the boys had said–“You’ve made it clear to me that you don’t like what I look like. I’ve heard you out. Now you’re seeking to torment me. If I see you doing anymore tormenting, to me or to anyone else on the bus, we’ll discuss it together with the principal and you’re parents.”
If the boys did continue to seek to humiliate her, she could follow through by strongly advocating that each of the boys that were involved indeed have a meeting with their parents and principal. There should be a separate meeting for each boy. The boy who is being discussed should be included, but not the other boys who were involved. Without the presence of those who cheered him on, each boy would be better able to look more squarely at the concerns of all present at the meeting.
It could be very helpful to include at each of these meetings some mature adult who has formed a close relationship with the teenager under discussion. Oftentimes a coach, art teacher, or another adult who the teenager has come to respect, can powerfully make the point that forming bonds with others by playing the game of humiliating is just plain wrong.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.