I nearly choked on my coffee as I heard the phrase peer massage roll off the lips of Greta VanSusteren Fox News anchor this morning. “Peer, what?” I asked her as my mind flashed to an assembly of out-of-control adolescents trying to master this technique.
Ok, I’m not trying to offend any of my colleagues here, but…are you kidding? Who dreamed up this peer massage anyway? What ever happened to protecting one’s own personal space? Does that make a person a passive aggressive bully because they do not want to be touched by someone they don’t even trust? VanSusteren says this peer massage is supposed to promote social inclusion because it stimulates the production of oxytocin a chemical which makes the brain say, “I trust you”. Well if I don’t trust you when you’re bullying me, then why would I allow you to massage your way into my mind just so I can think I trust you when in reality I don’t?
Is this peer massage the ultimate in political correctness? Just because students share the same academic environment, they should not have to unabashedly trust each and every school-mate they encounter. This sounds to me like an opportunity for aggressors to be mandated inside of the personal space of their prey. It seems like an invitation to promote peer domination and abuse. So what’s the answer here? I don’t know, so I decided to ask the resident bullying expert.
I called Rob Wilson, motivational speaker and author of The Annoying Ghost Kid, and asked his opinion about peer massage. Wilson said he had not seen the story on Fox but said that we should be “empathetic toward bullies but not during an attack.” Wilson said it is important to remember that bullies have been victims elsewhere. Wilson encourages teachers to “praise bullies in the classroom when they are doing well.” This positive reinforcement opens the pathway for the bully to change their pattern of victimization.
Wilson and I discussed the related story about the parent who was sentenced to a month in jail when he was found guilty for the reduced charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing toward a child with cerebral palsy. Wilson commented that this dad must be a miserable person otherwise he would have not found joy in making fun of another’s problems. The bullying behavior often emerges in elementary school, and unless the behavior is corrected, Wilson stated, bullies just get older…and bigger. “We live in a society full of bullies,” Wilson said, “it is because they feel unimportant and unloved and inadequate that [bullies] seek power over someone else.”
When I told Wilson that VanSusteren said her daughter was bullied so she arranged for some self-defense classes Wilson thought this was great because he bet she could now she can stand up for herself. It sounds like the three of us are on the same page…and it’s not promoting peer massage.