Creating an ethos where respect and value for diversity are priorities, and bullying is taken seriously, is another important element of helping to prevent bullying.
I have just been reading through the booklet by Dr Bill Maier called, Help! My Child is Being Bullied. It is an easy-read and provides a great deal of very useful and practical information. However, the thing that stood out most to me as I read was the importance of attitudes towards bullying.
For example, if we model problem-solving behaviour at home that is confrontational, then this is probably going to be reflected in our children’s behaviour as they interact with their peers.
If we don’t take bullying seriously, saying things like “It’s just a phase” or “Kids will be kids”, then it is also likely that our children will not take an appropriately serious perspective on the issue of bullying. This may not be something we say, but if we ridicule or belittle those who struggle with bullying, or even if we laugh at movies that depict bullying as a humourous event, then we could be perpetuating this perception that bullying is not such a big issue.
The consequence of this could be that children become involved in bullying “just for fun” without recognising the impact their actions may be having on the other child.
Children could also be more likely to be inactive by-standers if they have not been taught about the seriousness of the impact of bullying.
The other side of this is that a child who has been bullied would be less likely to tell an adult who they feel won’t take them seriously. And if a child tells an adult who responds by telling them to “toughen up” or “if you ignore it, it will go way”, they are likely to feel helpless, even more humiliated and alone. It could almost be said that that adult has become part of the bullying. And this can lead to the most serious of outcomes, including suicide.
One of the important things that we must do at school is to have a code of conduct, not just as a whole school, but also within our classes.
As teachers we should never ridicule a child, even if we think we are doing it light-heartedly. The way we treat our students will feed our relationships with them, and our actions should command respect as well as showing them respect. Even if you have personal feelings that the child doesn’t deserve respect, as a professional and an adult with a duty of care, a respectful attitude is necessary – and will bear fruit.
As discussed by the Alabama Council for Exceptional Children (ACEC), using rules in the classroom is about helping children learn to identify and follow social expectations of our society. The rules that we have in the classroom should be relevant to the issues and dynamics of that classroom, so no set of rules will fit every class.
However, as ACEC state, there are three main areas that rules should address:
- Respect for others
- Respect for others’ property
- Respect for the procedures and expectations that make a classroom “work”
Other things to think about when setting rules include:
- Do the students “own” the rules? Rules imposed on students are unlikely to be valued or followed. They need to be involved in discussing and designing these rules.
- Are there consequences for not adhering to the rules? Rules will also only be taken seriously if there are consequences for not following them. While we might need to have some flexibility with rules and respond with circumspection in the context of the seriousness of the event, we do need to be as consistent and persistent as possible.
- Are you lavish with praise? Praising, thanking or recognising in other ways a student’s positive behaviour will help demonstrate your respect for their efforts. And when praising, make sure you are specific (eg “Thanks for putting your hand up” instead of “Good boy/girl”)
- Do you have too many rules? If you have any more than 5 rules, you have too many. Just focus on the most important rules for your class.
- Do your rules focus on positives? Rules that start with “Don’t” are a great temptation for students. They want to push your buttons, so avoid putting the temptation in front of them. Rules should tell children (especially children with behavioural or developmental disabilities) exactly what you want them to do. For example: “Put your hand up and wait before you speak” instead of “Don’t call out in class.”
The Bottom Line
The attitudes you show towards bullying, and the values that you portray in your actions – these are what will set the tone of your children’s or students’ attitudes towards bullying.
Alabama Council of Exceptional Children (nd). Tips for Teachers: Managing Students’ Behaviour – Classroom Rule Setting. Retrieved 13th May, 2010 from http://www.afcec.org/tipsforteachers/tips_c1.html
Maier, B. (2006). Help! My Child is Being Bullied. Tyndale: Illinois.