29 Oct

Consequences With Support: School Bullying Issues

Best For The Boy

Bullying is not only hurtful, it is dangerous. For the bullier and his/her target, ongoing bullying produces adverse effects, impacting both/all participants negatively and sometimes permanently. You/we know this.

And you/we also know this: many if not most incidents of youthful bullying thrive at school, where shaming, rumors, threats, and physical clashes are known to often take place. As a result, bullying not only impacts a student’s educational readiness but also emotional, psychological, and overall well-being, often with lasting effects.

Knowing what we and they know, parents, educators, administrators, students and staff members frequently collaborate on collections of preventive and corrective strategies in their effort to inhibit bullying behaviors, and in the macro sense I fully believe that all schools endeavor to do so to the very best of their ability. Many schools now have elaborate anti-bullying programs in place to help students who may be or are being bullied. And the best of those can truly be called ‘comprehensive.’

But, from what I have seen in over two decades as both educator and administrator, few have clearly defined and effective approaches for addressing the bullier him-/herself on the immediate heels of a bullying event; for schools to claim they have a “comprehensive” student wellness program, this key component cannot be treated haphazardly nor informed according to the shock & frustrations of parents and administrators.

It Does and WILL Happen- the Consequences When

Creating a positive, healthy, and respectful environment at school is everyone’s ideal. To safeguard children at school, there is a need to create a safe social environment, in which students respect and are respected by each other and school staff. Many children accept this easily and have long ago felt the social and emotional payoff for certain kinds of self-discipline in filtering their own behaviors and attitudes. Others need not only stern messages (consequences) regarding their behavior, but specific instruction on both the how and the why of respectful behavior. Do they realize that behaving respectfully also benefits them? That it actually feels better most of the time? Apparently not.

While there must be strict rules and policies regarding bullying at school, many realize that coarse punishments and zero-tolerance actions don’t work anymore…and beyond postponing and better disguising destructive behavior, they probably never really did. Consequences are needed both as a learning tool for the wrong-doer and as evidence of fairness and confirmation of protection to others. But while consequences are (an essential and) natural outcome of flatly unacceptable behavior, we educators need to consider their objective before implementation. If the objective is punishment for its own sake (which may well be what we were shown when we misbehaved as children), it will be harsh, but treat a child harshly and you may be leading him to be  more determinedly harsh himself. In any case, harsh treatment won’t teach compassion and respect toward others, and it won’t instill a compassionate reluctance toward moving on to a new target once the heat from the last incident dies down. Stopping the behavior is always good, period, but better that it stops because of a change in perspective (attitude) by the bullier than because he got caught and has determined that he must re-calculate circumstances and methods for future bullying.

Consequences With Support

If we remember that all behaviors have a (perceived) purpose, and that all children are still relatively uninformed and unaware (and thus of course in school!) such that their understandings and perceptions are still immature, we may be able to avoid acting in ways contrary to our roles as educators and parents & get down to the business of teaching/re-teaching as an aspect of the necessary consequences for bullying behavior. Educators and parents will continue to faithfully implement measures to prevent cruel and violent behaviors, one (or more) child(-ren) upon another. Many, and I believe most, schools and school administrators energetically employ both formal and informal awareness-raising actions and/or programs and activities to inhibit bullying in schoolsbut adult support, optimism and tolerance are often seen to collapse at the moment an incident does occur, as incidents will, allowing other impulses–anger, frustration, disgust–to take over. They’re only children for a while, and just as with math and art and reading, time eventually runs out for formally helping  them arrive into adulthood happy, contributory and pro-socially effective. We can’t squander our short-term opportunities as parents and educators to help the children learn what they need AND WANT to learn, and although a bullying incident may feel like a moment calling for anger and upset, let’s not miss that it is a key teaching moment for a misguided child.

26 Sep

Our Foundational Principles

  1. There is no justification for one person to threaten the safety or security of another.
  2. Meanness and bullying happen according to a choice or choices made by the bullier alone. Punishment and criticism are irrelevant after the act…only disciplinary intervention, responsibility, and awareness matter.
  3. Bullying is an attack. Attacking others threatens safety and security, and causes harm to everyone involved.
  4. Being a widespread and common offense does not lessen bullyism’s unacceptability in each and every individual case.
  5. Outside influences do not lessen the responsibility upon the bullier, they just make choice-making harder.
  6. We cannot control other people’s choices…only our own. If others would like us to behave differently than we’d prefer, we can comply or refuse.
  7. The only person I can really control is “I”. If I think I can control others I am moving in the direction of frustration. If I think others can control me (and so are to blame for all that goes on in my life) I tend to do nothing constructive and again head for frustration.
  8. Bullying is not an ordinary or innocuous part of childhood and does not toughen up its perpetrators or targets; typical bullying behaviors are illegal and prosecutable in the adult world.
  9. An identified episode of deliberate cruelty is assumed to indicate a tendency or a potential.
  10. School-yard bulliers need help as much as the targets do. A community must value the bullier as it values their targets, although the behavior will be directly and clearly devalued.
  11. Bulliers can change. Change can be strengthened, deepened and/or accelerated by self-discovery.
  12. Intervention is not punishment (which demeans the child). It is the application of responsibility-taking that follows wrong choice and wrong action.
  13. Improvement is likely to be most lasting when paired with increased overall health of body and a healthy home environment.
  14. Success is jeopardized if the family does not acknowledge the need for improvement and the necessity of intervention.
25 Sep

Guidelines on Identifying a Potential Bullier

If 3 or more of these are answered in the affirmative, you may be sure that your enrollment is in the best interests of the child and family.

Does this child…

  • Have to always be the ‘first’ or the ‘winner’? Become mean if not first/not victorious?
  • Blame others without taking on any personal responsibility?
  • Declare him/herself the victim in all conflicts?
  • Become angry at—or insulted easily by—peers?
  • Seem less emotionally upset (other than indignation) than others after a conflict has occurred?
  • Enjoy seeing others make mistakes?
  • Lie/obfuscate to avoid even simple, non-serious consequences?
  • Regard rules as only applicable when adults are nearby?
  • Appear disinterested or unaffected when being scolded?

If so, direct, compassionate and constructive intervention is essential.