Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prevention, Reporting, and Intervention

It is true that we need to report and investigate carefully all alleged bullying incidents. I know what it is like to have someone systematically and consistently victimize my child. I know that feeling of helplessness because I am not in my child's school and I cannot be there to help.

Yet, reporting, investigating, and consequencing bullying behaviors is just one component of creating a safe school. Effective intervention is very complicated. As grown ups, we need to stand up for those who are easy targets. Sometimes, they also need help seeing how they provoke or annoy others. Yet, there is the balance of not making them feel that they cannot be true to themselves.

We need the silent majority to be positive bystanders. They see the bullying and they can be empowered to speak up. They can also scoop up and include the child who is at risk. When not isolated, (s)he is much less likely to become an easy target. When the bystanders come to us, we must pay attention. Very often, children stop reporting bullying because they feel that we either don't listen, or we are ineffective in stopping it.

Lastly, we need to teach our children to be powerful in the right way. To be able to control someone or elicit an emotional response from someone is a powerful experience. Everyone can be tempted to try this behavior on for size. Sometimes the same child may be victimized and targeting another child at the same time. So when the school calls, it is really important to work with the teachers closely. When parents and teachers work together, children feel safe and supported and work hard to change their negative behaviors. Consistently consequencing negative behaviors while replacing them with positive ones is the best way to redirect a misguided sense of power. We have to inspire our children to find power in acts of kindness such as picking fair teams, inviting someone in the peripheral to join the group, or simply walk away and take others with him/her when someone is acting like a bully - refusing to participate or give audience.

Burlington school leaders confront bullying head-on - The Boston Globe

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