The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Bullies…They are students, too.

Most adults become incensed when they discover that there is bullying in their child’s school. Immediately they  advocate severe punishment of the bully.  Now, who is the bully.  As  Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Severe  punishments, policing and strict  rules restricting their behavior will not cause bullies to relinquish their roles.  Such actions confirm them.  These techniques merely put adults in the role of bullies.  A much better approach, which also has  the added  advantage of modeling  problem solving techniques,  is  for the adults to acknowledge that there is a problem and to work  to develop programs aimed at solutions and prevention.

Schools  are in the business of education.  That  means  the education  of all students including the bullies.  One   solution is to provide activities where students are given the opportunity to  get  to  know  each other and to learn  how  to  interact  in constructive ways.

One  of  the  best ways to do this is through  cooperative learning lessons.  In the school setting, to complete assignments cooperatively,  students must function as a “cooperative  group”.

They must interact with each other,  share ideas and materials, help each other learn, pool their information and resources,  use division of  labor when appropriate,  integrate  each  member’s contribution  into  a group product and facilitate  each  other’s learning.   As a result, communication, conflict management,  and leadership  skills are developed and in the process the  students are  given the opportunity to appreciate and to  understand  each other better.

Margaret  Mead  made the point that the  future  quality of human life, as well as the survival of the human species, will be dependent  upon  cooperative behavior along with  a  concern  and respect for the rights of others.  This behavior can be  modeled, taught and nourished in the classroom.

Another  solution  involves  providing  opportunities  for children  to  learn to empathize with each other.   Bullies will only relinquish their dominance gained at the expense of  others by  the development  of  higher  values  such  as  empathy  and consideration.
One way to do this is to help bullies feel what their victim feels.   This can be done by the teacher listening to the  victim in  private  and then conveying to a small group  of  his  peers, which  includes  the  bully, the distress  of  the  victim.   The teacher conveys to the group that they are not there to be blamed but  for each member to offer to do something to help the  victim feel  better.  This enables bullies to understand the  extent  of someone else’s pain, which in severe cases, can lead to  suicide.

Some  bullies  are in so much pain themselves that  they  do  not comprehend the pain they cause in others.

There are many  other activities the school can institute to develop  empathy  in  children.   Students  could  be  given  the opportunity  to  help  younger ones by reading  to  them.   Older students  could  help others through  leadership  positions  like being  on  a  school  counsel or  being  on  the  school  patrol.

Students  could learn about those less fortunate than  themselves through  clothing  drives, visits to nursing homes,  or  donating food to help the homeless.  Teachers could stress empathy by such questions  during the reading lesson as:  “How do you  think  the person  in  the story feels?”  “How would you feel  if  the  same thing happened to you?  “What would you do to help that person?”

If  there is bullying in your child’s school, do not  accept the school’s position that it is normal and the school cannot  do anything  about it anyway.  Something can and should be done  not only for the victim’s sake but for the bully’s sake.   Successful young  bullies tend to grow up to become the  hardened  criminals who keep our jails full.

Posted in Behavior, Parenting, Teachers | 3 Comments

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