by Allan L. Beane, Ph.D.
strategies and activities to stop bullying before it starts
Say the word bully
to anyone you know, and the stories will start pouring out about
the fourth-grade bully who regularly tripped kids, the second-grade bully
who made girls cry, the sixth-grade bully who lay in wait for kids who
were walking home from school. If bullying is, as some people claim, a
normal, natural part of childhood, why do our memories of bullying incidents
remain so vivid and so universally painful?
We now know that
bullying is not normal, natural, or acceptable. Young victims get hurt,
both emotionally and physically. Young bullies can grow up to be abusive
adults. And it's not just the victims and bullies who are affected; people
around them are distracted, intimidated, and upset. Bullying in the classroom
prevents students from learning and teachers from teaching.
While the victims
of bullying need to learn skills to avoid such treatment, the bullies
also need to be taught better ways of relating to others. This is where
you can help. By making a commitment to prevention and intervention, you
will be helping to build a positive environment where everyone feels safe,
accepted, and valued. It's not enough to stop the bullying that is already
happening; we also need to keep students who aren't yet bullies or victims
from starting down that road.
The following pages
give you some strategies and steps to help prevent bullying and to intervene
once it occurs.
Before you can solve
or prevent a problem, it helps to define it. There are many myths about
bullying. The "True or False Checklist" on page 44 will expose
some of the myths and start students thinking about what bullying is and
how it affects everyone.
Read each myth statement
aloud and encourage students to discuss each one. You might introduce
these concepts into the discussion:
- Bullying takes
at least two people: bully and victim.
- Bullies like to
feel strong and superior.
- Bullies enjoy
having power over others.
- Bullies use their
power to hurt other people.
Then read the answer
to each myth statement. How did students' ideas compare with the answers
given? Discuss and analyze the differences. To emphasize the importance
of the information, you might make copies of the answers to give to older
students after the discussion.
Take the time to
agree on a class definition of what constitutes bullying. Your definition
might use different words but should include these basic ideas: Bullying
- When a stronger,
more powerful person hurts or frightens a smaller or weaker person deliberately
people is normal and inevitable, and not all conflict is harmful or bad.
The difference between destructive and constructive conflict consists
in how we choose to manage it. Destructive conflict damages relationships,
creates bad feelings, and leads to future problems. But constructive conflict
helps us to learn, grow, and change for the better. We become more open-minded,
tolerant, and accepting. We see things from other perspectives.
from learning and practicing conflict-resolution skills. Bullies discover
the real power of solving problems without using force or intimidation.
Victims are empowered to seek solutions instead of giving up and giving
in. Your classroom becomes a place where people are willing to work together
to achieve a positive outcome.
Research has shown
that conflict-resolution programs work. If you don't yet have access to
one in your school, here's a basic approach you can teach your students
now: List the "8 Steps to Conflict Resolution" (below) on the
chalkboard, or on a chart for permanent display. Discuss each step with
students, and reinforce the ideas with practice, role-plays, skits, and
more. But remember that conflict resolution isn't learned or taught in
a day. You might want to reproduce these "8 Steps" for students
to keep in their notebooks as a reminder.
Steps to Conflict Resolution
Cool down. Don't
try to resolve a conflict when you are angry (or the other person
is angry). Take a time-out, or agree to meet again in 24 hours.
conflict. Each person should tell about what happened in his or her
own words. No put-downs allowed! Important: Although each person may
have a different view of the conflict and use different words to describe
it, neither account is "right" or "wrong."
caused the conflict. What specific events led up to the conflict?
What happened first? Next? Did the conflict start out as a minor disagreement
or difference of opinion? What happened to turn it into a conflict?
Important: Don't label the conflict either person's "fault."
feelings raised by the conflict. Again, each person should use his
or her own words. Honesty is important. No blaming allowed!
and respectfully while the other person is talking. Try to understand
his or her point of view. Don't interrupt. It might help to "reflect"
the other person's perceptions and feelings by repeating them. Examples:
"You didn't like it when I called you a name." "Your
feelings are hurt." "You thought you should have first choice
about what game to play at recess." "You're sad because
you felt left out."
- Brainstorm solutions
to the conflict. Follow the three basic rules of brainstorming:
come up with as many ideas as they can.
- All ideas are
- Nobody makes
fun of anyone's ideas.
Be creative. Affirm
each other's ideas. Be open to new ideas. Make a list of brainstormed
ideas so participants will remember them all; then choose one solution
to try. Be willing to negotiate and compromise.
Try your solution.
See how it works. Give it your best efforts. Be patient.
If one solution
doesn't get results, try another. Keep trying. Brainstorm more solutions
if you need to.
If you can't resolve
the conflict no matter how hard you try, agree to disagree sometimes
that's the best you can do. Also realize that the conflict doesn't have
to end your relationship. People can get along even when they disagree.
or False Checklist
is just teasing.
False. While many bullies tease, others use violence, intimidation,
and other hostile tactics. Sometimes teasing can be fun; bullying
people deserve to be bullied.
No one ever deserves to be bullied. No one "asks for it."
Most bullies tease people who are "different" in some
way. Being different is not a reason to be bullied.
boys are bullies.
Most bullies are boys, but girls can also be bullies.
who complain about bullies are babies.
People who complain about bullies are standing up for their right
not to be bullied. They're more grown-up than bullies are.
is a normal part of growing up.
If you think bullying is normal, you're less likely to say or do
anything about it. Getting teased, picked on, pushed around, threatened,
harassed, insulted, hurt, or abused is not normal.
will go away if you ignore them.
True & False.
Some bullies may go away. But others will get angry and keep bullying
until they get a reaction.
7. All bullies
have low self-esteem. That's why they pick on other people.
Some bullies have high self-esteem. They feel good about themselves,
and picking on other people makes them feel even better. Most of
the time, bullying isn't about high or low self-esteem. It's about
having power over other people.
tattling to tell an adult when you're being bullied.
It's smart to tell an adult who can help you do something about
bullying. It's also smart to tell an adult if you see someone else
9. The best
way to deal with a bully is by fighting or trying to get even.
If you fight with a bully, someone might get hurt. Plus, you might
get into trouble for fighting. If you try to get even, you're acting
the same way as the bully. And the bully might come after you again
to get even with you. Either way only makes things worse.
who are bullied might hurt for a while, but they'll get over it.
True & False.
It really depends on the person and how severe or prolonged the
bullying is. But bullying can hurt for a long time. Many adults
can remember all too well when they were bullied as children.
L. Beane, Ph.D.,
is a professor in the special education department at Murray State University
in Murray, Kentucky. This article was adapted from his book The Bully
Free Classroom: Over 100 Tips and Strategies for Teachers K8
(Free Spirit Publishing, 1999). To purchase this book, call 1-800-735-7323,
or visit www.freespirit.com.