What Can Parents, Educators and the Community Do about Bullying?
Rodger Dinwiddie is a national speaker on Best Courses of Action in Bullying Prevention. Chief Executive Officer of STARS and a Certified Lead Trainer for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Dinwiddie said that even the word “bullying” has been politicized. He asserted that four areas of emphasis must be involved in order to create an effective plan to prevent bullying: school, classroom, individuals, and the community (including parents and guardians).
Here are four strategies that do not work, according to Dinwiddie:
- zero tolerance policies
- group treatment for children who bully
- conflict resolution/peer motivation
- simple, short-term solutions.
Two groups of students who are observers of bullying are “bystanders” and “upstanders.” The first merely observes and does nothing. The second takes a stand against bullying and can make a difference. It is essential to train everyone to be an upstander.
He shows a clip from a television program in which a teacher had a child (who had been bullied) confront the bully and tell him that it hurt when he was bullied and he didn’t want to have it happen again. She made the two shake hands with the bully barely touching the hand of the poor kid who had been the brunt of the behavior.
Dinwiddie said that this was absolutely the worst kind of ineffective situation to create because the kid who had been mistreated knew that he was going to catch havoc even worse than before the minute the teacher was no longer present.
Bullies are kids who get a rush out of seeing other people in misery. It is a power trip they engage in and they thoroughly enjoy the situation. It is only when they are taught to empathize with others (a skill they do not presently have) that change can occur. Bullies get pleasure from the pain of others.
Bullies usually come from families where excessive physical punishment is practices, where one parent is strict and the other is lenient (creating confusion in the child about what is appropriate), where excessive conflict or belligerent behavior is the norm, or where the child has been bullied by someone else.
Other factors that are believed to cause bullying are excessively violent video games, peer rejection, excessively violent television programs, lack of a positive role model, and school climates where bullying is allowed. Homes were there is a lack of adult supervision, where someone consciously or unconsciously models the role of a bully, one in a neighborhood where violence is commonplace, and one where hostility is constantly present lead children to become bullies.
Most bullying is verbal and/or psychological, but physical violence is also practiced in some cases. Most bullying takes approximately 40 seconds. It can occur anywhere during or after the school day. No teacher can observe every second of behavior in a classroom with a group of students present.
There is a distinct difference in bullying, rough-and-tumble play, and real fighting. Teasing occurs when friends are having fun. Taunting is continuous harassment.
The three components of bullying are:
- aggressive behavior
- it is typically a pattern;
- there is an imbalance of power or strength
This last component is always a part of bullying. Bullying can occur in person, on the phone and in cyberspace (about six to seven percent of bullying is on the Internet).
Parents and educators have to be aware of all three possibilities because bullying has an effect on thoughts and/or completion of suicide; bullying can cause depression because the bullied child begins to feel that the situation is hopeless and there is no way out.
Popular kids with their henchmen are more likely to bully than other groups.
Bullying becomes a legal issue when discrimination (race, color or national origin is involved), or sexual harassment/sexual orientation is the reason for the bullying.
Here are the ten strategies for schools that Dinwiddie claims can intervene to prevent bullying:
- Focus on the school environment
- Assessment of bullying in the school in order to put procedures in place to prevent it
- Gain support from all staff in a school and parents/guardians
- Establish a bullying prevention coordinating committee
- Train staff to understand the difference in normal conflict and bullying
- Post clear rules
- Increase adult supervision of “hot spots” (areas where bullying is most likely to occur)
- Intervene consistently and appropriately
- Spend quality class time discussing bullying prevention so that students understand not only what it is but how to behave if they become witnesses to the acts themselves
- Don’t quit
Character education where children not only are taught to be smart, but good is the goal of our schools. Working together as parents, educators and community participants is the answer to preventing bullying. It is a full time job of every adult and the mission of teaching children how to become responsible adults who contribute in positive ways to society.
“STARS” stands for Students Taking a Right Stand. For more information on what you can do, check out the Stars Nashville web site.