When this guy started focusing on teaching kids to be self-deprecating, I started getting angry, really angry. He actually told us to tell kids to respond to taunts by saying things such as, "Yeah, you think I'm stupid, you should see my sister!". I left. I thought, "If a district thinks this is the way to go, kids are doomed".
Anti-bullying programs are only effective in comforting parents that "something" is being done. If a superintendent can say, "We have a program", then, just check it off the to-do list. Yet, the bullying goes on and it is reaching a "blood sport" level in every district of every stripe. In the past two years, I've diagnosed a number of kids with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Acute Stress Disorder as the result of relentless bullying. Those diagnoses aren't easy to achieve. The diagnosis represents a lot of hurt for a lot of years.
School Districts...STOP buying this stuff. Do the job. Do it right. Take the time to pay attention to which kids keep coming in for bullying behavior and have that kid's needs address. Is s/he is being abused, in emotional distress or is s/he a predator who is evolving into a sociopath?
NO anti-bullying program is gonna stop this kid if bullying is reinforcing to him/her. He or she, yes , the girls are especially vicious and may live for the thrill of bullying and getting away with it. These kids are particularly socially savvy, are attractive and can basically make you believe anything they want you to believe. Just watch them pull it off! Don't let the parents intimidate you, Mr. Principal. I don't care if Dad is a name partner in a law firm and can't believe his baby girl has set her "prey's" backpack on fire while she was walking down the hall! Yes, she did!
Boys just duke it out. There's little guess work as "what" is going on. They are also more willing to own their "stuff". They also "forgive and forget". They move on. The girls, however, are sneakier. They use a more "passive and rejecting" approach. They get others to "shun" the prey, spread rumors and destroy them psychologically, spiritually and socially. They are the proverbial dog with a bone. They will follow-up, and cyber-stalk and make harassing phone calls. They are relentless. They don't forgive and they sure don't forget. EVER.
1. Don't rely on kids to stand up for themselves. In order to survive, they have to spend their time trying to stay away from predators rather than risk becoming more of a target. And, the other kids? Yeah, right, like they're gonna tell and be the next target (identification with the aggressor dynamic)
2. Have a system ("the box") whereby kids can anonymously identify those that are bullying, so you, teachers and administrators, can make yourselves more of a "presence" in that kid's daily interactions. S/he will sit at the front of the class. They will be given high-profile responsibilities that give them positive attention for being helpful and caring. They will be given responsibilities to work on projects that focus on empathy development. They may be in charge of collecting food for the local animal shelter and to deliver that food for extra credit or whatever. Much of these kinds of tasks can be done in the general efforts of the whole school. In this way, you don't have to bring this kid "down a peg", but raise them up in positive ways. Let them "feel the love", so to speak.
3. Keep seeing the same name over and over in the "box"? Time to stand up for the kid and talk with the parents. Allowing abuse is abuse itself. Ask that the kid be evaluated for problems. If your district psychologists do not have the expertise to conduct such an assessment, pay for a private clinician. We private practitioners have to tell the truth, the whole truth and guide parents to support services for themselves and their kids. Paying for a private evaluation may "let you off the hook" and give you permission to take action. Or, as a first step, create a behavior program in conjunction with parents so that they know exactly what will happen if the behavior persists. If parents are willing to go into therapy WITH their kids, work closely with the therapist in order to promote healthier behavior in all settings. There's no time to waste.
So so so many kids with these behaviors are depressed and their depression and self-loathing ends up in aggression. As my father would say, "Don't just stand there, do something". Parents, don't make excuses. How will you explain all of this to yourself when your kid is arrested? Yep, juvenile court judges are a tough crowd and they don't buy your stuff. Once physical harm is done or a law is broken, you've lost your advantage. Other people will take charge for you.
4 Take a look at the "prey" who are being targeted. What "whiffs" are they putting off that make other kids think they can get away with this conduct. Can they not defend themselves verbally? Do they have social and/or learning and/or behavioral problems that have gone unnoticed or even underestimated if they are already known to have problems? Does that child belong at that school or do they need more intensive support?
Parents, don't be fooled by anti-bullying programs in your schools. There's no substitute for competent, individualized intervention for kids. All behavior is purposeful, meaningful and interpretable. Demand that your district have an intelligent plan to find out what is going on for "both sides" of the predator/prey dynamic and to take intelligent action. Be the parent that says, "Enough!"
Get out there...I have confidence in you.
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