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The example starts with us - Miriam Dalli

When an adult argues that bullying makes children stronger it not only justifies the acts of a bully but it reinforces a child victim’s notion that perhaps they ‘deserve’ to be bullied… for how they look, for who their parents are, for where they come from: for who they are.

To sit back and try to justify that “school ground bullying is bound to happen” and that “it can be because your children’s classmates think that your politician husband is absolute rubbish”, is absolutely appalling. If a child is mocked, bullied or excluded because they wear specs, get better grades, has a funny accent or is the child of a politician or a plumber this should not be tolerated.

Nor is this criticism to those statements an attempt to “bully someone into silence” – although frankly I find it quite ironic that someone who so inconsiderately penned such phrases would now take umbrage at the reaction generated.

There should not be any two ways about it: why teach our children how to be responsible members of societies and to embrace diversity only to turn to them and say “hey, it’s OK to be bullied… it will only make you stronger”? It’s like telling a bully: “good job, keep it up”.

It ignores the effect bullying has on both victim and bully. How is this bullying affecting the victim? And what pushes a bully to be a bully?

What are we teaching our sons and daughters? That it’s OK to be mean to someone just because of their beliefs?

For someone to speak in such a callous manner is not only irresponsible but highly dangerous. The argument that children have not been invited to parties has been mocked… but what about when it is only your child who has not been invited? And how do you reassure your child that nothing is wrong with them?

What are we teaching our sons and daughters? That it’s OK to be mean to someone just because of their beliefs? The singular message being sent out is “not like us, not part of us”. Would it make sense to us if parents who are Inter fans tell their children they cannot be friends with someone just because their parents are Juventus fans?

If you ever wonder why politics should still divide our country so much, remember that it’s because of the prejudices instilled in our children, the future generations. Children know no hate but they are exposed to it. And we, who are in the political arena, should be the first to fight it off. Just like we teach our children against inequality, racism and discrimination, petty politics should never enter the school ground.

As both a mother and a politician, reading through Kristina Chetcuti’s opinion piece incensed me. I am very much aware of the ruthlessness of the political life and how subtle the red line in the family-balancing act can be. So why would any person encourage it by saying something so heartlessly?

But I also felt pity at reading the piece. Pity that that is the only reality some people know, where your circle of friends are determined on where you come from, who you side with and what’s of benefit to you.

I hope that the discussion that has erupted does not fizzle out within a matter of days. Bullying, in any form at any age, should not be swept under the carpet but confronted head on.

Miriam Dalli is a Labour MEP.

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