How To Stop Bullying In Our Schools
That terrible feeling when you don’t know what’s wrong with you. When you can’t piece together why you are constantly humiliated and intimidated by classmates. Why do they think you’re a loser, a weirdo? Have you ever done them wrong? You have no friends. Every day, you force yourself to go to school and face the same pain of being rejected.
The chances are high that there is or there was someone in your class who was no stranger to the bitterness of being ostracized from the community. Of course, the scenario described above is an extreme case of bullying. However, according to researchers, one out of two people experience bullying at some point before they turn 20. It’s likely that you’ve also got first-hand experience of being a victim and receiving a blow to your confidence and self-respect.
Bullying starts early. Society has grown so accustomed to bullying in kindergartens and schools that it is considered a normal, even integral part of growing up. “Well, kids will be kids, so what can you do?” Certainly, conflicts are inevitable in human life. Especially, among children. However children are too young to understand the difference between conflicts and bullying.
Conflicts are natural. They occur spontaneously as we interact with each other. There’s nothing wrong in disagreeing with other people about the things we want, what we think, or what we want to do. Children constantly quarrel over a myriad of issues. Parents, teachers and caregivers teach children how to cope with and handle these delicate issues.
Bullying, on the other hand, is purposeful. It is intended to cause some kind of harm – emotional and/or physical. There’s always an imbalance of power, status, or strength between the one who does the bullying and the target of bullying. An older student can abuse younger kids. A bigger student threatens a smaller child. A very popular teenager intimidates others. It is also the job of parents, teachers and cargivers to prevent these types of situations.
It’s really tough though because bullying is not limited to intentional bumps into a classmate in the hallway, taunting someone about his/her sexual orientation in the locker room, making fun of a student’s clothes, accent or grades. Over the last years, students repeatedly use social media to embarrass and harass classmates. Online shaming and death threats have become a devastating epidemic.
For some, ridiculing a classmate in front of others is just child’s play. Nevertheless, it can be damaging for kids who lack awareness or strong defense mechanisms.
Should kids learn how to ignore it? Or should they always tell a teacher about being bullied?
Following either of these tactics may do more harm than good.
To fully understand what we should do to prevent bullying in schools, we need to answer one simple question:
Why do kids bully?
In fact, no one is born a bully. It is a learned behavior. Kids direct aggressive behavior towards others for a number of reasons.
– Stress or trauma. Bullying can be a response to stressful or traumatic situations kids are going through. Scenarios can include their parents separating or divorcing, a death of a close relative, or gaining a sibling. Difficult home life and feeling like their parents/guardians don’t have enough time to spend with them make children feel rejected. They target their anger towards weaker kids as a way of compensation.
– Feeling insecure. Kids who have low self-esteem and lack of confidence are trying to overcome self-rejection by focusing on others. They subconsciously force themselves to hide their feeling of insecurity. As a result, they try to disparage someone to make themselves feel more confident.
– Jealousy. Kids feel like someone is in some way superior – smarter, more attractive perhaps. They become abusive to make a target of bullying feel inferior while making themselves feel more important.
– Fear of not being accepted. As bullying has become a social norm, some students are worried they won’t be accepted by popular kids if they don’t bully someone. Lack of attention can make a person a bully to be seen as “tough” or “cool.”
– They are being bullied themselves. While some victims of bullying isolate themselves, others respond to the stress with bullying other children.
We shouldn’t forget that statistically, two thirds of all bullies are boys. Just think about how men are raised in our culture. Too often when a boy starts showing signs of emotion, he’s told to man up and to “stop acting like a girl.” Guys are discouraged to speak up about their troubles and share their feelings. Consequently, they start to respond with aggressive behaviours, such as bullying, to cope with issues that torment their souls.
Some kids learn to bully from parents who constantly quarrel as well as brothers, sisters or friends. They started to believe that putting fear in someone is a way to achieve success and status among classmates.
So what can we do?
When dealing with bullying, we should NEVER punish a bully. It doesn’t work and it’s counterproductive. Bullies are looking for attention and control. Being punished makes them feel special. It also adds negativity to their lives and fuels their anger. As a result, punishment reinforces bullying.
The most obvious way to stop bullying in schools is for parents to change the way they treat their children at home. Of course, this is much easier said than done. As a rule, bullies grow in families where parents neglect their children and fight a lot. Disdain and violence model their behaviours in school.
Although schools must adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying, bullies shouldn’t be treated in a punitive manner. They are children after all and need to be taught empathy toward others. Moreover, all students should be taught how to talk to bullies.
Talking can be the antidote.
Here’s a strategy that can help students defend themselves when someone is trying to make their life miserable. Teachers and counsellors can try:
– Understanding. Bullies could have issues at home. They may be struggling with their own identity and confidence. Ask what is going on. They may not even realize that something is wrong. They also may not answer you. Just remember that people who are perfectly happy and confident will never do the bullying. Direct questions can disarm any bully.
– Mediation. When a situation is more serious and the victim is too afraid to speak with the bully, a third person – a mediator – will facilitate a conversation. Initially, it should be an adult. Mediators should be available in all schools and colleges to make sure that both sides will work to resolve the issue. However, it’s always better to speak one-to-one in a neutral place like a public park or cafe.
– Never shout. No issue can be resolved through arguing. If somebody treats us aggressively, our natural instincts will usually be to defend ourselves by shouting louder. But it never works. If you feel your anger growing, take a time out and take some deep breaths. Being calm will always benefit you.
– Build an agenda. This helps guide the conversation in the right direction and you won’t forget things that you meant to talk about.
Teachers always should look for warning signs of bullying and monitor hot spots. There are certain places where bullying occurs regularly because adults are not always present. There’s a major risk that bullying will occur in hallways, bathrooms, playgrounds, and buses. When an adult is present, children feel safer, and bullying behaviours are less likely to occur.
Bullying can be prevented! To achieve this goal, we need to try and find out why a certain student wants to turn another student’s life into a living hell. To fully understand the motives of bullies, we need to talk. School employees should be extra alert to prevent bullying and make our schools a safer place.