There is no real consensus on what we should be teaching kids to stop bullying.
Heck, we can’t even agree on what the purpose of the education is. I am for teaching kids to eliminate bullying, but when I contacted the National Association of School Psychologists at the recommendation of my local school’s mental health team I was told they were focused on prevention, not elimination.
There is a difference and I understand why they want to focus their work there. Prevention is easier and more effective. If you can prevent bullying from occurring, then you don’t have to eliminate it.
The problem is that the most effective bullying prevention programs don’t help everyone. They help encourage kids to be “upstanders” but they don’t really do much to help kids who are dealing with a chronic bullying problem. Once bullying has become chronic, what the kids need now is to be taught how to get it to stop.
The good news is that bullying elimination training also helps prevent new instances of bullying from occurring. One of the reasons bystanders don’t speak up is because they are afraid if they do, they will become a target for the bullies. This is a valid concern.
But what if kids were taught how to get it to stop and not just prevent it? Then they wouldn’t need to be as worried about becoming a target because they would know how to make it stop if it happened. This is powerful knowledge and it’s empowering. It gives victims control of the situation and helps stop bullying.
If we really want to stop bullying, we can’t just teach prevention. We need to teach how exactly you get a bully to stop once they have started! The technique to get unwanted behavior to stop is called extinguishing a behavior, it’s part of operant conditioning which is part of behavioral psychology. We have decades of research on how exactly how to get unwanted behaviors to stop. Isn’t it time we start teaching this to our kids?