By: Izzy Kalman, MS, NCSP
Do you see yourself as being in control of your life, or do you see external factors as being in control? If it’s the first, you have an internal locus of control. If it’s the second, you have an external locus of control.
The concept of locus of control was introduced by Julian Rotter in the 1950s and has become firmly established in psychology. Research has made it clear that to be happy and productive it helps to have an internal locus of control. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we cause the adverse situations we face, but that we are the ones in the best position to handle them. On the other hand, people who are miserable and unsuccessful tend to have an external locus of control.
Numerous articles have appeared in recent years about the growing fragility of the current generation of young people. Their anxiety level is higher than ever, their suicide rate is escalating steadily, and when they reach college many need “safe zones” and “trigger warnings” to protect them from ideas they don’t like.
Why are our children becoming emotionally weaker? There are numerous reasons, but one of the major ones is the counter-intuitively named “anti-bullying” education they have been receiving since preschool. I have been warning for close to two decades that the typical anti-bullying messages are resulting in what I call a “generation of emotional marshmallows.” It’s because these messages instill in children an external locus of control.
What have children been taught in recent years? That if other kids are mean to them, it has nothing to do with themselves; it is because the other kids are just that way. That they are powerless to handle social aggression on their own because the kids that target them are stronger. That it is the responsibility of everyone around them to protect them their feelings.
In other words, they are being taught to have an external locus of control.
The anti-bullying field has also informed us that schools are the agencies responsible for bullying among children. Thus, when schools fail to stop a child from being bullied, the parents sue the school, not the perceived aggressors. Such lawsuits are becoming increasingly common. It has all but become routine practice whenever a child tragically commits suicide because of bullying.
I have been arguing for years that these lawsuits are unfair to schools because when schools follow these so-called anti-bullying policies, the bullying is likely to get worse. The world’s most revered bullying prevention programs only succeed, at best, in reducing bullying by a fraction. So can schools be at fault when the policies and programs they are required to use can’t eliminate most bullying? But the anti-bullying education fosters an external locus of control, so there must be someone else to blame, and who is more convenient to blame than the school?
Fortunately, I expect that this sorry state of affairs will be changing in coming years. With Be Strong, we have developed a comprehensive and fun program for teaching students how to have an internal locus of control. It will teach them how to easily handle bullying and adversity on their own, without needing anyone to protect them or solve their problems for them. Our youth will become happier and more successful because they will know how to be in charge of their own social lives. So please give Be Strong your support so it reaches the entire nation and eventually the world.
To read more about how anti-bullying education is making it legitimate to blame others for our own violence, read the latest article on my Psychology Today blog.