Chances are that if you have a child in grade school, middle school or high school, then you have been notified about steps to thwart bullying. From bullying prevention, so called anti-bullying programs and others it seems that the same crowd that packages everything for schools to buy is in on this one too. How quickly we seem to forget the failed Stranger Danger movement. Are we destined to repeat this process again?
Several months ago, a Canadian psychologist, David Smith, conducted a review of all the research on anti-bullying programs and found that on the whole they don’t work. Interestingly, he called on the programs to continue anyway because if we do them long enough, eventually we may find out what does work. (Thanks for the research tip Mr. Kalman)
Objectivity & Consider The Source Please
Interestingly enough, the bullying prevention information is already made available by your hard-earned tax dollars or by local businesses offering community service (more on this later) but so often they seem bent on buying programs out of Sweden or other expensive options. I urge everyone, especially parents and teachers, to step back, do a bit of research from an objective point of view, and for heaven’s sake, talk with a professional protector.
The question is… do these School-wide Bullying Prevention Programs work.
The big elephant in the room is that few people seem to be asking the relevant questions. Do the Bullying Prevention Programs protect children? The research usually shows stats that could easily skew one’s perspective and bias a result. (For example the statistics they show reveal the incidences of bullying reported, not actual incidences of bullying.)
Over 85% of bullying goes unreported.
Instead, it seems as a community, we are latching on to the sensational headlines and tragic suicides and triggering redundant legislation and excessive government involvement, all the while ignoring the real issue of child social and safety development.
The school system, government, teachers are hard at work assuring parents that they are combating the so called “bullying epidemic”. Yet we have headlines such as:
o Emmet Fralick, 14, of Halifax, shot himself at home in April 2002. He left a suicide note saying he was tormented by bullies at school.
o In November 2000, Dawn-Marie Wesley, 14, of Mission, B.C., hanged herself. She left a note naming three girls at her school she said were “killing her” because of their bullying.
So Which Is It??
Perhaps it is time to consider some different options. More is not necessarily better. More paper, more legislation, more restrictions, more BULLY FREE ZONE signs, where does it end? In my view, it is the core of the issue which has failed to have been addressed. It’s not as complicated as some would want to convince you that it is. In my experience, those who would unnecessarily complicate things are usually looking for your money or more power.
The Help is Available To Prevent Bullying
I didn’t set out to start the Arizona Bullying Prevention Initiative – The Phoenix Bullying Prevention Project nor the Bullying Prevention Initiative International for kicks. I saw a significant problem in how bullying prevention was being addressed and felt a duty to speak up on it as a bullying prevention specialist and professional protector.
All Too Often I See The Ugly Truth of Bullying and the Failed Anti-Bullying Systems in Schools
The parents I get coming to my martial arts schools and seminars are frustrated with the academic approach and fighting to have their child protected. By the time they come to me they have usually been to see the teacher, school administration and still have the bullying problem. All they want is to protect their child and see that they get the same chance at education and a safe place to learn as other kids. I see more and more of these cases of parents seeking practical solutions to their child’s bullying problems. We offer hope and get results.
How To Stop Bullying Problems, Aggressive Behavior and Harassment
I train the child how to stop being a bullying victim, a soft target, and train the parents how they can support their child’s social growth and confidence development. With some easy to learn protective skills we address the problem head on with role playing, scenario training and a shift in their approach to bullying prevention and aggressive behavior. Most are shocked that I take the time to get to know the circumstances of their situation before offering advice. They won’t get quick and easy or overly rigid rules from me – that can be tantamount to sweeping a problem under a rug and can inadvertently send a message to the child that they are incapable or stupid.
While I commend most teachers and school administrators for taking the subject of bullying prevention seriously, I question their willingness to face the reality of the danger to children and how these ineffectual programs are failing. We cannot continue to shift responsibility to teachers, schools, government what squarely belongs to each of us as individuals, families, and collectively as a community. The compartmentalization is killing kids and exasperating parents. The first step to breaking through the mystery is to do what my teacher Gavin de Becker taught me, to accept reality.
Red Flags: Report or Run only Options
Any program that fails to address the physical reality of bullying or only teaches children to run or report in the face of aggressive behavior and danger is setting a child up for a lifetime of victimhood or a beating/harassment as soon as they leave the watchful eye of teachers and administrators. Where do they think bullying takes place??
Run or report only programs fail to address the reality of bullying prevention.
Another common way schools are failing in preventing bullying is allowing people to believe that they alone can prevent all bullying. Statistics clearly show that bullying mostly takes place out of the view of teachers, off of school grounds and other places of transition. It is at the park, on the way to school, the bus stop, the obscure places that an opportunistic bully will exploit. The bulllying child will often seek places and times of opportunity – not all, contrary to popular bullying mythology, will want an audience. Remember, the school can’t do everything. Teachers are already expected to do more than provide an education. They are burdened with a myriad of issues to contend with. It is incumbent on every parent to do their part in teaching their child steps to prevent bullying. Equip the child with practical tools and address the core issue of why they were selected as a target for bullying in the first place then why it continued. Aggressive behavior and bullying doesn’t magically stop after school. If the issue isn’t adequately addressed, they will be no different than so many other adults who live in fear and denial and act shocked when victimized.
We aren’t serious about bullying until we accept reality and get serious about self defense. True self-defense, in my view, addresses the social, psychological and physical dynamics of human conflict and behavior. Practical self defense offers training in practical pre-contact, contact, and post-contact options.
Just because something comes in a well marketed kit and appeals to an academic nature, does not make it produce the right results. The fact is, many of the academics making the decisions to implement such impotent programs are unable to adequately address bullying themselves- even as adults. If you are seeking an emotional placebo for bullying, then perhaps the programs do the trick. All it takes is an adequate level of denial and rationalization, blame shifting and emotional band-aids. I would encourage all educators and administrators to take a deeper look at the issue from a safety perspective. Recognize that if you had trouble with bullying and still lack skills to deal with aggressive behavior other than abdication, that you may not be best suited for the job due to your bias. That would take an honest, mature decision maker who puts the interests of children above his or her own.
I would encourage school teachers, administrators, and parents to consider partnering with a local quality martial arts school with a proven bullying program to address the bullying issue with a tried and true, evidence based, research and results driven approach.Advertisements