Monday, September 14, 2009

Bullies, the Bullied, and Bystanders

In an Op-Ed in yesterday's Boston Globe entitled "How we can end the cycle of bullying," pediatrician Claudia Meininger Gold advocates an early childhood approach to bullying that focuses on improving parenting skills in order to help young children with aggression. This focus on the origins of bullying are laudable and must be pursued.  The Associate Press yesterday also reported on the other end of the effort to stop bullying: law enforcement.  Yet as Dr. Gold states, "bullying is a symptom" and until the underlying causes are treated, legal and disciplinary action remain necessary, if symptomatic, solutions.

Until improved parenting skills are taught, implemented, and produce results, schools must still deal with bullying. In a My Voice Survey of  over 400,000 students in grades 6 -12, 33% agreed with the statement "I think bullying is a problem in my school." This coincides with National Center for Education Statistics that indicate one-third of U.S. students report being bullied in school. There are numerous anti-bullying programs out there.  In our work in schools, we have seen three basic approaches.  Those that
  • Focus on the bully: "Be nicer."
  • Focus on the bullied: "Be tougher."
  • Focus on the bystander: "Be involved."
All three recommend themselves from an 8 Conditions point of view, but the latter seems to involve more of the Conditions more effectively.  Giving bystanders resources to become involved puts more responsibility for reducing bullying on students themselves.  In schools, adult solutions to bullying tend to drive bullying further underground.  When students get involved in meaningful ways, both bullies and those targeted get the message that they are not alone.

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