In order to effectively reform elementary school bullies a multi-pronged all hands on deck approach is required.
Contrary to popular belief, bullying is not a result of bad parenting. Bullying is a strategy some kids use to get what they want and get their way. And guess what? It works! It works REALLY well. Which is why it is so incredibly hard to stop.
Kids learn this behavior early and if we are going to avoid the bullying horror stories that arise in middle school, we need to start teaching our youngest kids not to bully and we do that by making sure bullying doesn’t ever work for them so that they learn it isn’t a good strategy.
How do we do that? Well, it requires a multi-pronged approach and all hands on deck. Here are 6 concrete things every school should be doing to get bullying to stop.1st – define what bullying is and isn’t effectively because a lot of what little kids in elementary school think is bullying may just be interpersonal conflict and stuff that is bullying, they don’t realize is bullying, like exclusion and things like that. It is also important to label things like threats and battery not as bullying, but as threats and battery and to handle them as serious infractions that demand immediate attention because they have crossed the line into what is actually criminal behavior. This will help break out the verbal and harder to handle incidences from the more dangerous behavior and as a result, it will make it easier to eliminate the more violent forms of bullying.
2nd – have a clear policy for not tolerating bullying and take action EVERY time it is reported.
3rd. Make sure parents of victims are giving training on how to get bullies to leave their child alone so that they can teach these skills to their child and help them learn how to respond to get bullies to leave them alone – this is incredibly empowering for kids to learn, we just have to make sure that the parents are taught explicitly so that the child can be taught explicitly what to do. The victim should also receive counseling on how to process the emotional trauma that is associated with the experience to help minimize the damage done and to help provide coping skills that will serve the child as they grow and learn from the experience.
4th – the teachers and administrators have to coordinate their efforts with the victims parents on a daily basis. In order to get a bully to stop, takes time. When you first start shutting it down a bully will enter what is known as an extinction burst, that has to be effectively managed by the staff and administrators so that the burst extinguishes quickly. The best way to do that is to make sure every incident is reported and a consequence given. That requires everyone to understand that this IS THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the process. If you don’t do this, the bullying will continue and get worse. The only way to make sure this happens is to make sure the victim is reporting everything that is happening to them no exceptions and that they are supported and protected actively and aggressively through this process.
5th – the bully needs some intervention and counseling with the school counselor to learn conflict resolution. These sessions should be weekly for a while and follow ups monthly once the bullying behavior is under control.
6th – the parents of the bully need to be trained on how to reinforce the no bullying allowed training the child is getting at school at home. While not every parent wants or will participate in this, many will and we should not be neglecting their needs.