What You Need to Know About How to Prevent Bullying
But Were Never Taught
Got bullies? We've got better strategies to prevent bullying.
This is author and workshop instructor Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I've got some great tips and tools for you on how to prevent bullying in your school, agency or center.
In our professional development workshops, we always ask participants to identify the top cause of school shootings. Bullying is usually named. There is no doubt that bullying is a huge problem in nearly any setting where children and youth congregate, but you won't be able to stop or moderate bullying by focusing on that issue alone.
Yet, often that is what happens. When youth professionals focus solely or primarily on bullying, it may be a bit like seeing the forest but not the trees. Or, perhaps another analogy– one that might resonate especially well with mental health workers– is that a primary focus on bullying is a lot like just focusing on an alcoholic's liquor consumption while neglecting to address any factors that caused the excessive drinking in the first place.
Here is a completely different way of viewing and addressing bullying, one that you may find far more effective than conventional approaches that focus on the symptom of bullying while overlooking the factors that cause and sustain it. Read on to discover the real truth about how to prevent bullying.
The Truth About How to Prevent Bullying
To address bullying, use character education or values clarification approaches.
While character education and values clarification approaches can have merit, as a reader of this internet magazine, hopefully you have learned that these methods always fail with about 11-14% of youngsters. Do you remember the information presented in past issues on this topic? If you have been to our workshop, you definitely should know the truth on this topic, because we devote hours to it during class. As any of our workshop past participants should be able to tell you, character ed and values clarification approaches always fail with conduct disordered youth.
These are the students we covered in Issues 2 and 3 of this magazine. As you may recall from those articles, these youngsters lack a conscience or remorse, so character ed and values clarification simply won't work since those methods require that the child be able to care and have compassion.
Since conduct disorders are the most misbehaved students of all, they are also often your bullies. Now, you know why conventional approaches may have limited success reducing bullying. To get better results, switch to methods designed to work with conduct disorders.
To review our introduction to click on the Blog link at the top of the page and choose the Introductory Issues.
Bullying is the primary cause of school shootings.
The media loves simple, black and white explanations, and this very simplistic sound bite is just not a very accurate or thorough explanation. While some school shooters were partially motivated by being bullied, to zero in on just the bullying misses the point– and misses the point on how to prevent an incident.
A more accurate way of viewing these youngsters who shoot, is to note that they tend to be clinically depressed, and that in addition to the bullying that they may endure, they are very sad and extremely frustrated.
Better than viewing them as worn down by the bullying, it is far more accurate to view them as worn down by many things. Let me explain why this distinction is so important. This distinction is critical because it doesn't require an act of bullying to set this child off. Like a pressure cooker, this student is building up to blow.
Certainly bullying could be the thing that causes the blow up, but it could be any event that lights the fuse. When you train your attention on seriously depressed youth (who may be bullied a lot, irregularly, or not at all) you can more readily and precisely identify the youth who could some day explode.
Further, there may be other populations of youth who are statistically far more likely to cause an extremely violent incident. However, if three– not just one– types of youngsters are at highest risk of violence, that's a more complicated idea, a complex assertion that the popular media may never fully appreciate and disseminate.
Although you won't hear it in the media, the bullied child is probably not the youngster at highest risk of extreme violence. Want more than headlines? Check out our book, All the Best Answers Conduct Disorders and Anti-Social Youth. It is available as a book, ebook or online video class.
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Classroom Management Problems STOP here
When teaching bullying prevention, keep the focus on the bullying.
While it is fine to focus directly on the bullying, if you stop there, you may be unhappy with the results. To stick with the analogy used earlier, it is like focusing on the amount of liquor consumed rather than helping the alcoholic to understand why he drinks excessively.
In addition to teaching that bullying is wrong, there needs to be a greater focus on teaching the skills youngsters need to behave differently. Further, you need to modify the skills of not just the bully, but also the victims and peers.
Typically, we do not necessarily provide specific skill instruction to all three of those groups. The bully needs training to learn new peer interaction skills, but so do the victims and bystanders. If you focus solely on one or two of those groups, you may not get the results you sought.
Remember, teaching skills does not mean re-stating expectations or rules. Teaching skills means that you creatively and effectively show students the exact skills that they need to be different. So, for example, you might teach the bully some new "Opening Lines" to use when initiating peer contact, perhaps aiding the youngster to stop threatening, and instead say something less aggressive.
Here are other key areas that are often not taught as part of bullying prevention programs: personal space and distance, interacting with peers who are different, managing hands and other body parts, and how to avoid peer set-ups.
There are many more critical skill areas that often are overlooked and left unaddressed, including motivating bullies to stop bullying. All unaddressed areas will be an endless source of bullying problems so be sure you cover it all. Skill training doesn't have to be boring.
For example, to motivate bullies to be different, you can use inovative, humorous interventions like our popular bullying prevention posters (click.) Poster #100 is shown above.