I wrote this article about bullying in April of 2007 and would like to share it again since bullying continues to be a problem in school and in society.
Bullying behaviour is really a cry for help. One that we ignore at our peril. Esther William’s book entitled Help for Bullies, Victims and Bystanders is a very useful resource. One that I’ve used in preparing this post. It’s always nice to have your own observations supported by someone else, and it’s always nice to learn something new. I recommend it highly. It’s available through Youth Light Books.
Why do people bully other people? Notice, I didn’t ask why do kids bully other kids. I asked why do people bully other people? I did that for a very good reason: kids aren’t the only ones to bully other people. Adults bully other people as well. In fact, kids who bully often will grow up to be adults who bully if nothing is done to help them change their behaviour. Why do bullies bully? There are numerous reasons. We know that bullies bully because they get something out of bullying. What do they get? Well they get material things. They just intimidate kids or worse and take what they want. It could be money, clothing, ipods, bus tickets, sex etc. It could be anything. Bullies also bully because it gives them a sense of power over the victim. They feel omnipotent. They stand out in the crowd because they are bigger, meaner, louder than anyone else , and they enjoy the attention they get.
Interestingly, bullies are not less intelligent than other kids- although sometimes it seems that way because they’re behind their peers at school. Basically, this is what happens. Kids who bully and exhibit aggressive behaviour fall behind their peers in school because they miss classes due to the suspensions and detentions they get because of their inappropriate behaviour. They can’t keep up if they are not in class- especially in subjects like math where one concept builds on the previous one. I found this to be the case when teaching math to at-risk kids. They have huge gaps in their knowledge because they’re out of class so often between the skipping, sitting in the office after being sent out of class for bad behaviour or being suspended. Often, they have no idea what’s going on. When they go back to class, they simply misbehave again to amuse themselves. The vicious cycle continues.
It seems to me that many at-risk classes just consist of bullies and victims. There are no positive role models for the bullies to emulate, and there are no good role models for the victims to emulate. What seems to happen is that instead of encouraging each other in positive ways, these kids encourage each other in negative ways so the inappropriate behaviour escalates. It’s really difficult for teachers to teach when we have to deal with all the behaviour first. It’s taken me over two months to develop a positive relationship with all the kids in my math class this semester- over two whole months. It’s just now they are starting to change their behaviour so that they can actually learn math. They ‘re becoming more respectful of one another and me. Unfortunately, with these at-risk classes the behaviour gets much worse before it get’s better. I work hard to develop positive relationships with these kids because that is the only way I can reach them. I could almost send everyone of them to the office almost everyday. But, what’s the point of that! They need to be in class so that I can develop a positive relationship with them. Once I have a positive relationship with these kids , I have a better chance of helping them them change their attitudes and helping them make better choices that result in better consequences. It’s not an easy job, and I sometimes wonder why I actually choose to do it.
Bullying is mostly a learned behavior, although there is a genetic component. Violent video games, TV programs and movies can teach kids to deal with the world and it’s frustrations in violent ways. Kids model the behaviour that they see. Of course the longer the inappropriate behaviour continues the more difficult it is to change. What is encouraging though is that bullies can be taught appropriate behaviour at school that will change their tendency to bully even if bullying and aggressive behaviour is the norm at home. Inconsistent discipline, lack of parental emotional support, family problems, and a history of physical and emotional abuse manifest themselves in depression and increased thoughts of committing suicide that bullies exhibit. Imagine living in a home environment like the one I described above with its physical or emotional abuse, inconsistent discipline, lack of emotional support, and family problems. It would be terrible for adults to have to live in such an environment, never mind kids. Oh sure, we can all point to people who did not become bullies who lived in environments like that. That’s great. I wish more people could rise above all those problems and not use aggression to deal with life. But, there are many people who can’t. We need to recognize that bullying behaviour is an indication that a person’s basic human needs haven’t been met. Their actions are speaking louder than their words. We need to see this inappropriate behaviour as a cry for help, and we need to help them so they can meet their needs in more appropriate ways. That’s the way I see it.
Next time, I’m going to talk about what schools can do to help kids who bully meet their basic human needs in more appropriate ways. I’m going to start by looking at teachers who bully their students. Yes, you heard correctly. Some teachers bully their students, and yes some teachers bully other teachers. The bullying needs to stop.
I’m going to ask for a favour. I’m writing my blog and doing these podcasts because I want to share what I have learned after teaching all this time with as many people as possible. Life at school is tough. I’ve learned things that can make it easier for teachers, for kids and their parents. If you think what I have to say is helpful, please go to itunes and write a review of my podcast. I have the itunes link on my website.
Jason was kind enough to write one for the UK site, and I believe that is the reason why itunes put my podcast in the New and Noteworthy section. Itunes says there are over a 100 new podcasts each day so it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. I don’t want my podcasts to get lost. I want to share what I have learned with as many people as possible with the hope that something I say will be useful. If you can help me make my podcast more visible, I would really appreciate it. Thanks.
Here are links to other articles I wrote about bullying. I hope you find them helpful
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