Bully Prevention and the Virtue of Thoughtfulness


Aggressor: Thoughtfulness is kindness guided by empathy. Those who are being aggressive towards another person want to call on their thoughtfulness, to pay attention to the likes and dislikes of the other person. It is likely they have done this already and chosen to focus on their dislikes instead of considering how their words or actions would affect the person they are acting on.

Target: The target of aggression can use thoughtfulness also by observing what the aggressor needs and thinking about how it might be provided. Do they need a friend or even help in something that you are good at doing. The target want to be discerning in their decisions. They are thoughtful about how they respond in their actions and words. Thoughtfulness will keep them from lowering their standards and react in an unkind manner.

Bystander: The bystander in any situation of aggression wants to practice thoughtfulness also by observing all of the circumstances and being considerate of the target of bullying. They will give their attention to the needs of others and be thoughtful about how they can help the most. Do they need to get additional help or can they practice their best virtues without further support? Being thoughtful of the target will no doubt brighten and grow the trust between the parties. Everyone enjoys being around a person who is not self-centered and who is always thinking about what they can do to help their friends.

A tough world for adults and children

QuestionsIn the world that we live in today – all adults are facing the questions

  • Why do people discriminate against others?
  • How do I stand up against injustice?
  • How do I help or stand up for myself when I am being disrespected?
  • If I see someone else being humiliated, what should I do?

These are questions that adults are struggling with in their communities and trying to figure out how to deal with on an international scale.

If though we look at our children – they are going through the same questions – just on their scale.  In their groups they may be trying to figure out:

  • Why some kids are forming cliques that others they do not know are not allowed to be a part of?
  • Just because I am from a different country or have a different color skin – why do others make fun of me?
  • Why do some people tell me I can’t be friends with someone else?
  • How do I handle it when your best friend is really mean to others?
  • Will I always be the outsider and seen as a loser?

Sometimes we think that our young children do not see the injustices and the unfairness that is taking place in parts of their community or the world.  In fact, many of those same unfair behaviors and meanness is showing up in very young children.  Our children are facing an increasingly difficult environment – that assumes they are ready to understand and deal with all of the miscues of their own making along with the ones their friends make.

If you think your child is telling you everything that is going on in her life, that is not a good assumption.  They are dealing with very complicated social problems that are very confusing to them.  It is happening at younger and younger ages too.

Why is this the case?  Could it be that we the parents are pushing them to ‘grow up’ faster, by allowing them to do more adult activities, dress in more adult ways, permitting them to watch and imitate older media stars – who may or may not be such great examples?  Are we adults being influenced by the sophisticated marketing aimed at creating mini adults out of children with the latest in clothing, hair and attitude?

The prevention of bullying in both boys and girls starts with giving our children:

  • Purpose (family and personal mission)
  • Code of values
  • Optimism
  • Gratitude

Along with these 4 key skills and knowledge, they must also be given strategies to deal with the questions and battles that they face everyday, the same way us adults have to struggle with the questions that face us.  Balanced Life Skills is working to help families and individual children protect themselves and build a culture of peace and kindness in their family, community and the world.

Making assumptions may lead to bullying

There are two girls passing in the hallway – they are friends and they think they are great friends.   But this day that they pass in the hallway, one of them says hi and the other one does not respond.  She simply walks by without even the slightest recognition that she was spoken to.  What does the first girl think?

Ask any girl this question and they will tell you that she thinks the other girl is mad at her.  How do they know that she is mad?  “because she ignored her”!

ignoringThink for a minute though if that is the only reason that she did not respond?  What are the other possibilities?  Maybe they did not hear them say hi, or maybe the one girl was having a bad day!  If you are not really sure – and you just assume that it is because they are mad at you – then that starts all kinds of other feelings and possibly conversations with others.  The problem is that when we decide how another person feels without really knowing that is really not fair.  

You might be making an assumption.  When we make an assumption we are making a decision about something without knowing all of the details.  This thought that takes root in your mind will not easily go away.  It will grow into stronger feelings of your own – emotions, thoughts and eventually even actions – all based on something that may or may not be true.  You simply do not have the facts.

To avoid those kind of feelings that could lead to actions that could be harmful, it is much better to catch yourself when you are making assumptions.  Ask yourself – could there be other reasons they acted this way?  When we ask the right questions it opens up our mind to other possibilities and may save us from looking foolish, feeling awful and making a mistake with someone who may really be a good friend.
How does this relate to bully prevention?  Too many times individuals who have assumed wrong motives are quick to retaliate – sometimes in very harsh, mean and elongated attacks that destroy relationships and causes great harm.  Not sure about something – ASK or be willing to wait and see if later the situation remains the same.  Assuming what another feels is always dangerous to relationships.

Finding the strengths of children to ward off bullying

solutionWhen children do not feel safe, it makes it almost impossible for them to learn in the classroom.  While creating a culture of peace is our goal, the day to day situations in the interim must be dealt with by each individual teacher and parent.

With so many children targeted by bullying, we many times have focused on the vulnerabily of certain children.  Are they quiet or reserved, is there a difference with them (glasses, physical, learning etc..) do they have a need to be popular, are they overweight or not good at sports, speech impediment, or may be aggressive toward others?  All of these children are vulnerable to being the target of bullying.

Those same children though have strengths that can be built on that would enable them to be resilient and cope with bullying situations, while the teacher and parents are working on building a culture in the home and classroom that creates a kind and peaceful atmosphere.  When you consider a child who is vulnerable, also ask yourself what their strengths are.  How might they use those strengths, how can we build the child’s resilience?  Then most important is who can be a part of the support network for each of those kids?

It may be certain positive peers who can be there for them.  A guidance counselor or other teacher in the school may be a part of the network.  How can parents be helped to learn how to help their child grow their resilience?  This network around any vulnerable child is the key to reducing the chance that they will become targets or victims of bullying.

While we are doing this with individual children – every classroom and home should consider the 3 step process for changing culture in their community.

  1. Step one is to set the expectations for the behavior and attitude for all in the community.
  2. Step two is to role model what those expectations look like for all others in the community.
  3. Step three is to teach – talk about the expectations on a daily basis.  This is always done when there are no emotions involved.  It should be mirrored by all in the community, every teacher, every parent, every coach on a daily basis.  

These 3 steps will help everyone involve to get a clear picture and develop the peace we all want in our family, schools and community.

How do we change the culture in our schools?

culturechange2As we look at the question of bullying in our schools and how to deal with this issue, it may be that we should stop looking at the kids and wondering what is wrong with them and ask ourselves what are we doing that sets a better example for them.  If our goal to change the culture of schools to a culture of kindness and a culture of peace is to come to fruition, we must include everyone – including ourselves as parents, teachers and administrators.

How do we go about changing culture?

Step one:  Set Expectations – Ask ourselves what do we want our culture in the schools to look like?  What are the core values that we want to live by in the classroom to be?  Does everyone from administration to the student understand what those values look like in real action?  Do they agree that these are good goals?

Step two:  Role model – This step after agreeing to what it looks like is the personal practice.  As the teacher in the classroom am I demonstrating the core values, am I living them?  As the administrator in the school, do I treat the teachers and custodian with the same level of respect when asking them to do something that I expect from the students when they make a request of a teacher.  Every school may have different core values or we could call it personality traits.  Each school though would agree that respect is at the top of the list.

Step three: Teach your students – As we are adjusting ourselves as parents and teachers, there is something very helpful about teaching the values and social skills that we want to see in our students and children.  This should be done on a daily basis, just the same as the way we teach any subject.  While the role modeling is our biggest teacher, helping student in just 3 minutes a day to understand how the skills can be seen in real world will also be a great aid to the teacher.  ETED is the acronym for Every Teacher Every Day – shall I add in every class.  Teaching the values and skills of a peaceful society in every class by every teacher tells the student – this is not a program – this is what our school does. 
Three steps, none of them are particularly easy.  All of them require that we think about what we stand for and believe in and force us to work on ourselves.  Most if not all of our teachers and administrators have Masters and Doctorates.  Our goal is to live Mastery – not willing to have a mediocre classroom – but to have a peaceful, kind classroom that kids are enjoying learning in.  As a group of dedicated educators we can change the culture of our schools and classrooms.  If you want to learn more, please contact me to start the process in your home or in your school.

How to help a child with aggressive behavior

FightingChildrenWhether our child has been identified as a bully or we are simply worried that their behavior is aggressive and we would like them to find other ways of expressing themselves we should be aware that there may be a number of reasons for aggressive behavior to start happening when we have not seen it before.

  • Are they looking for social status or power in their group
  • A natural temperament that needs some adult regulation
  • Are they going along with others or copying what others are doing
  • Are they being bullied by others and trying to be pro-active to stop the attacks

Once we have determined how they are feeling, we can help them come up with other strategies that do not include either physical, social or verbal bullying.  How else can they show leadership or social status?  Can we give them our own experience or get the schools counselor to help with the process?
Our commitment as parents to helping them find healthy ways to resolve conflict and to stop bullying others will be a boost to their own confidence.  Share the plan with teachers and administrators so everyone in the students life can be a part of implementing the plan you and your child have come up with.