As the new school year begins, you may find your child reluctant to go back to school. Encourage your child to tell you why he does not want to go to school and if the reason is he is afraid of a bully then respond quickly and appropriately. Bullying is widespread and happens in most schools.
As a parent, there are things you should and should not do if your child is being bullied. First, tell your child that it is not his fault. No child deserves to be made unhappy by constantly being teased and left out of the social group. Second, do not minimize the situation by telling your child to ignore it and just to walk away. That is easier said than done. Third, go to your child's school and talk about it. This is one situation where it is up to the adults, not the child to solve the problem. Encourage the school to seek solutions. Do not accept the point of view that bullying is normal and therefore not the school's problem. Bullying is not normal. Schools need to understand that severe punishment, policing, and strict rules forbidding their behavior will not cause bullies to relinquish their roles. It confirms them.
Encourage the school to seek solutions. Do not accept the point of view that bullying is normal and therefore not the school's problem.
These techniques merely put adults into the role of bullies.
Schools need to investigate other proven solutions. One solution is the "No Blame Approach" advocated by Barbara Maines and George Robinson in England. This program is based on the premise that bullies will only relinquish their dominance gained at the expense of others by the development of higher values such as empathy and consideration. This very effective program begins by a teacher or counselor listening very carefully to the bullying victim in private.
The circumstances, like who did what, are not important but how the victim feels about what happened is. If possible, the victim should portray how he or she feels by writing it down as a story, drawing a picture about it or making up a poem. Next the teacher has a meeting with six or eight students including those involved either as the bullies, spectators who colluded by not intervening or just observers. The victim does not attend this meeting. The teacher makes it clear that nobody is going to be blamed or punished. They are going to talk about how the victim feels because this group can do something about helping the victim. Time is not spent on getting details about what happened, who said what, who started it and so forth. Rather, the teacher recounts the victim's story in a clear way so that the distress is described. The teacher conveys to the students that they are not bad and can help the victim. The teacher then asks each member of the group to make suggestions about what he or she could do that might help.
The teacher merely lists the ideas, she does not exact any promises. About a week later, the teacher meets each member of the group separately to find out how things are going.
She meets individually so that the students do not place blame by saying that another student did not do what he said he was going to. At no time does this technique place blame. Nor does it waste time playing detective to find out who did what to whom. The program has proven to be very effective. Bullies have changed for the better. The behavior of a bully is unhealthy, and, if left untreated, it can develop into real pathology as the bully grows into adulthood. The nation is presently involved in a "get tough" program against criminals. More jails will need to be built because of this new policy. The criminals are not helped to change but, by their treatment, are made to feel worse.
As a result, when they are released, and some will have to be released to make room for the next batch, they are meaner than when they went in . Successful young bullies turn into adult bullies who keep our prison population rising. It is easier to cure a young bully than an adult criminal. Prevention programs like the one just described are more important and more effective than "Get Tough" legislation which just confirms the criminal in his lifestyle.
First published in 1995