It’s Bullying Month in the U.S. – probably Anti-bullying, but you get the point. That means a lot of well-intentioned people will be saying really unhelpful things to kids across the country. Some will be telling the bullied kids to toughen up. Some will be punishing the perpetrators. Some will be presenting assemblies to improve morale. These practices are unfortunately contributing to the problem.
The way to stop bullying in your school is to promote a positive culture where every member (students, teachers, administrators, and support staff) cares for the well-being of those around them and is supported to do so.
This means promoting all varieties of positive behaviour. It means giving kids the tools to break through the bystander barrier when they see something wrong.
Focusing on the negative and labeling people as victims and bullies, not surprisingly, has an overall negative effect. How can someone labeled as a bully improve their behaviour when they’re stuck with that label in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and other students’ parents?
I have saved a few articles from the last month or so to back up my claims and concerns. Please read them and, by all means, email me if you disagree. I’d love to have a conversation about this topic, as the teen suicides don’t appear to be slowing down.
1. Conversation is actually the first piece of the puzzle. Changing the culture must come through conversation – not lecture or presentation. Conversation allows everyone to feel part of the whole. It gives us the ability to understand definitions – to have a shared vocabulary. Read this article for more information.
2. Definition is another problem. The word “bully” means different things to different people. In fact, it is barely used by students at all. It should be easy to see the problem there. If I don’t consider name-calling to be bullying, I can honestly join in your campaign to reduce bullying in the school without a hint of irony. Check this article for concerns over word-usage.
3. Using the word bully is choosing to use a label. Labels are incredibly powerful, psychologically – just ask people in marketing or propaganda. In using labeling words in our schools, we are stepping into downward spiral that makes it very hard to escape from. This article touches the surface of the problem with labeling.
4. Finally, the goal needs to be happier (and safer) schools, not bully-free zones. Targeting bullying is a narrow goal. A happy school doesn’t have bullies. We need to address the broad goal of culture and that means bringing everyone to the table for conversations. Here are two articles addressing non-traditional efforts to reduce negative behaviour. One. Two.
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