Children try out various behaviors and adjust, depending on what happens and how it makes them feel. Grab this teachable moment for a win-win-approach.
There is a prime time for habit development in young children. This time in childhood can be used to stress social skills. Teaching acceptance of diversity and nurturing empathy will set the stage for less bullying and equip students to deal proactively with it when it arises. Much like an infectious disease, the patient (victim) can be treated, but to actually stop the outbreak, the carrier (offender) must be dealt with in a way to bring about actual change with discontinuing the troubling behaviors.
Use Intervention and Prevention to Stop Bullying Before it Becomes a Habit
There are some situations which could be considered bullying where the perpetrator is not fully aware, or is in denial, of the whole picture. This is where adults can structure and mentor them as they learn more appropriate social skills and develop an awareness of the feelings of others.
Using “carefrontation” as opposed to confrontation, may help turn this child in a healthier direction before a negative identity solidifies in either the self or in the reputation in the eyes of peers. Such a method works well with young children although in older years it may not prove as successful.
Only by drawing a circle of caring around both parties involved can we make a significant difference in the future for both these two and countless others down the road of their lives. For if the offender is just punished, that may be just enough negative to encourage a continuation of that bullying behavior. (Consider American jails and the recidivism rates – the punishment model doesn’t stop bad habits.)
Just choosing sides only guarantees the victim will commit to victim behavior and the perpetrator will become a full-fledged bully. A more thorough approach will lead us toward a goal of reducing the number of people who actually continue to develop a bully identity.
Counseling Helpful for Both Parties to a Bullying Situation
Even as the families of the chronically ill (cancer, alcoholism, other medical needs, etc.) may benefit from separate counseling or support groups both the patient and the caregivers, the two parties to a bully situation may benefit from counseling for varied and different reasons.
The victim can be listened to along with uplifted as regards self esteem issues, since bullying can take quite a toll on a person’s self concept. They can be helped to develop techniques which thwart the person who is bullying, and in more extreme cases, given legal advice and aid.
However, telling the vulnerable to “ignore it” is not usually meaningful and make make little of their hurt feelings. Yet too much comfort can lead to over-dependance and thus enabling habits which can also be counterproductive.
The person doing the bullying can be worked with to develop more empathy. Counselors can use firm and realistic ways of making them clearly aware of the effects of their behaviors on others, even long term, and ultimately on themselves.
They can be shown how it feels by imagining someone they cherish on the receiving end of bullying. Sometimes exploring how such habits can affect their ability to earn a living and be happy may reach certain individuals.
In addition, in counseling an offender for a bullying encounter, they need to be clearly informed of legal remedies, and walked through possible scenarios they might have to deal with if their behavior continues. This might involve a field trip to a detention and/or treatment center to see where such behaviors may lead.
Continued Firm Training in Social Skills Needed
After developing initial awareness, the offender may need repeated training sessions to actually begin to relate cause and effect in their own lives. Social skills training can be helpful in restructuring habits once some motivation has kicked in. As hard as it is for some, these children need to be taught in a caring and structured environment since new habits develop best when nurtured.
These at risk students need to experience receiving positive from good social skills rather than just receiving negative attention for going the easy route of bullying behaviors. They can be taught other ways to feel power by achieving and nurturing others. All school staff needs to be united in their approach to these aggressive students in order to make a real difference.
The practice of restitution may be helpful at times. They can be assigned to help younger kids, classroom pets, or in a nursing home only if extremely close supervision and firm guidance is available at all moments. This has been known to help with development of nurturing skills as well as self respect by using power to better purposes.
In order to stem the tide of aggressive and harmful behaviors there needs to be a circle of kindness and training available to all parties involved. Although this can include anti-bullying, that is not enough by itself. The classroom or play group has to be trained not to enable by giving negative attention.
All children need to receive training further than just being told to report the behavior and/or take a stand, even though both of those are both valid and necessary.
One motivation for working to replace these habits before they become one’s identity is crucial. Kids who bully can become adults who are unfair and aggressive, even raging. Then those adults may even turn into senior bullies, leaving a trail of pain throughout their lives.
In the long run the offender needs intervention to avoid years of hurting other and the victim needs to be validated and reassured along with comfort and real help in dealing with these heart-rending issues.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.