Bullying is a serious problem in schools. It is the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate someone perceived as vulnerable. A bully is the person who is habitually cruel, insulting or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller or in some way vulnerable. It is systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on another. Bullying is a frightening experience many students face everyday.
It can be as direct as hitting, threatening, destruction of property or forcing someone to do something against their will or as indirect as rumour, exclusion or manipulation. Bullying involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the person who bullies and the target students who are bullied. The victims suffer depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness, loneliness and insecure.
Bullying in schools is a significant problem and antisocial behaviour. The perpetrators have greater physical or social power than their victims and act aggressively towards them by verbal, physical or social means. School bullies tend to share common traits such as aggressive, dominant and slightly lower than average intelligence.
Bullying and its Effects
Bullying can impact a child on physical, mental or emotional levels. Some of the effects include anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, lack of self-esteem, gastric issues, relationship issues and addiction to alcohol and drugs.
Bullying leads to problems academically and emotionally in addition to poor attendance and decreased academic performance. It causes feelings of helplessness, anger and frustration, mental, physical and emotional damage to all involved including bystanders. Research has shown the effects last well into adulthood. It occurs most often in areas where there is little or no adult supervision.
One of the benefits of conflict resolution education is the decrease in incidence of violence. Some of the issues that face schools are fighting, bullying, harassment and other forms of violence among students. Effective conflict management decreases these incidents of bullying and violence and creates a constructive learning environment and helps students interact peacefully.
Schools need to have all staff, teachers and administrators on board to prevent bullying from occuring and put some measures in place such as effective conflict resolution strategies for peaceful classrooms and schools.
Conflict Resolution Strategies
Resolving conflict in the classroom and building classroom communities create a climate of warmth and inclusion that respects all students and also holds everyone accountable for being a good citizen. Teachers need a class time for teaching and empowering students in bullying awareness and skills in prevention, appropriate intervention and reporting.
It is important to teach kindness, empathy and assertiveness to students. Teaching children to be kind to others. Create opportunities for connection that foster a sense of community in the classroom. Identify gateway behaviour and prevent bullying behaviour such as name calling, stalking, ignoring or excluding, prolonged staring, laughing cruelly/encouraging others to laugh, causing physical harm mitigate the likelihood of them growing into something more problematic.
Looking out for warning signs. Have a clear definition of bullying. Remove labels and address behaviour to ensure the person who is doing the bullying knows what behaviour is wrong, why it is wrong and what the consequences are for engaging in the behaviour. If the behaviour keeps occurring the parents will need to be involved.
Set clear and enforceable rules and expectations. Age appropriate rules allow a student to know what behaviour is expected. Be consistent in enforcing the rules. Reward positive behaviour. Reinforce good behaviour and it will give students clear expectations of what you want in a positive way. That way the student will be more likely to engage in the positive behaviour again. Have open communication with students talking to them about their problems including bullying.
When parents are involved and work together with teachers, the biggest difference can be achieved. Parents should instil healthy habits in their children. Instil anti bullying mindset in your child. This includes learning that being critical, judgmental, making hurtful jokes and spreading rumors are unhealthy and constitute bullying. Teach your child kindness. Teach your child early about responsible online behaviour. Be sure your child knows the best way to prevent bullying is to report it.
Provide your child tools for dealing with bullying such as walking away, telling the bully in a firm and confident voice to stop, ignore the bully, demonstrate that it does not bother them if other people point out their flaws demonstrating confidence. Teach your child to avoid places where bullies hang, stick with friends not socially isolated, know how to escape the situation, leave the place, if the bully is physical make a lot of noise to attract attention, know how to defuse the situation and get to safety. Report the bully to an adult.
Teaching, modeling and practicing conflict resolution skills with students help everyone. There will be fewer behaviour issues, stronger friendships, safe and constructive learning environment, more time for learning and more prepared for the real world.