One way to stop bullying is to take steps to prevent bullying from starting. Some ways to prevent bullying is through providing a bully policy, consequences for bullies, and educating potential victims of bullying. Keep reading for more tips on preventing bullying.
Steps to prevent bullying before it starts can address the problem from several directions. Prevention can be aimed at creating a situation in which bullying is not tolerated, in giving potential bullies outlets and behavior suggestions so that thoughts and feelings that could end up in bullying are channeled in different ways, and in helping potential victims avoid becoming the victim of bullying behavior. This article explores some of the current thoughts about how bullying can be prevented.
Prevent Bullying With Policies
A clear definition of bullying and a policy that disallows it and lays out the consequences is one means to arm a school or school district against this problem. For one thing, when bullying is clearly defined, then it can be more easily recognized and separated from constructive criticism, discipline, and motivation, all of which are bordering areas. It is important that the policy is clear and research-based in order to not be so broad that students and teachers are fearful of being perceived as bullies at every turn when what they say is not praise. And it is different, though still potentially painful if a child is picked last for games because he or she has an objectively poor skill set as opposed to being picked last due to an explicit campaign to ostracize him or her.
Policies to prevent bullying may explicitly mention major types of bullying, including verbal, social, physical, pack and cyberbullying, and racist, religious, homophobic bullying, along with bullying of people with disabilities. But it is important that policies should be worded so as not to exclude the bullying of mainstream victims, nor victims who are teachers, staff, administrators, or school board members, rather than students.
As of September 2009, most states have bullying laws. Bullying laws do not exist, however, in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Prevent Bullying With Consequences
With a carefully written and precise bullying definition in place, there is a need to follow up with appropriate and fair consequences when bullying occurs, whoever the perpetrator and victims are. Victims must know that they will get a fair hearing in order to be persuaded to come forward. Bullies must not be perceived as immune on account of longevity or position. Consequences need to be applied consistently in order for a policy to prevent bullying from being effective.
In states in which there are bullying laws and the bullying involves physical altercations or damage to or theft of property, the consequences of bullying may include criminal prosecution, as well as school sanctions. In addition, bullies, both students, and teachers, not to mention schools, school districts, and parents of bullies have been sued for damages.
Prevent Bullying with Family Education
Perception of bullying has changed over time, and while a bullying policy can touch organizations such as schools, it is harder to reach families. People who come from families in which bullying was the norm have been exposed to behavior models that are not considered acceptable today. These people, whether teachers or students, may need explicit models of how to act on thoughts and feelings that could lead to bullying and/or they may need greater assistance to learn new behavior patterns and break old models, such as counseling, rather than simply punishment.
Community education is difficult and takes time: many people feel that what happens behind their closed front door is their business and is private and resent and reject suggestions for change. But if dad bullies mom, or vice versa, and the children take this behavior as a model, what’s behind closed doors can flow out into the community.
Within the home, parents can prevent bullying both by modeling alternative behaviors as well as explicitly pointing out behaviors that fall into the category of bullying and differentiating ways of acting and sharing behaviors that are acceptable within a family – in which people often know more about each other’s characteristics, faults and failings, for example, because of how space is shared rather than because someone has “outed” someone else – from what is acceptable in school and other public settings.
Other Means to Help Prevent Bullying
- Supervision and appropriate intervention can help stop bullying that is in progress.
- Teach appropriate assertiveness to those who are, or maybe, targets of bullying.
- If the bullying is linked to something that can be changed – such as an article of clothing or a lack of skill or training in some area – discuss various responses with the person, including changing the behavior, by making a different choice or by working to improve in the area that is lacking if this is an appropriate response, or learning to assert his or her right to be different, if this is appropriate. For example, if a student is ridiculed because his or her desk or locker is a mess with things falling out of it, some assistance in creating and maintaining order could both be beneficial and remove the reason for the bullying. If, however, the student wants to continue to wear a Yankee baseball cap in Red Sox territory, a different approach will be needed to prevent bullying.
- Staff training can help make sure that the school (and state, if applicable) bullying policies are widely understood.
- Some bullying occurs at the rate of “almost every day” according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2007 data. Head off repeat offense by encouraging reports of bullying and making sure reports are dealt with expeditiously. A victim who has accepted another student’s decision as “jokes” up to a point, should be able to report the decision without feeling complicit or guilty for the bullying being ongoing.
Bullying Resources For Parents and Families
Parents and family members are often unsure what to do when they suspect that their loved one is being bullied in school. Knowing how to respond in a supportive manner is extremely important.
As part of our No Name-Calling Week resources, GLSEN had developed two guides for parents and family members. Included are:
- For Parents and Families: What to do if a Child is Being Bullied -Bullying among children is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power or strength. A child who is being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself. Bullying can take many forms, such as: hitting and/or punching (physical bullying); teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying); intimidation through gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying); and sending insulting messages by phone or computer e-mail (cyberbullying). Usually, bullying is repeated over time. Many children, particularly boys and older children and youth, do not tell their parents or adults at school about being bullied. It is important that adults are vigilant to possible signs of bullying.
- For Parents and Families: How to Talk with Educators at Your Child’s School About Bullying – Parents are often reluctant to report to educators that their child is being bullied. Why? Parents may be unsure how best to help their child and may be afraid that they will make the situation worse if they report bullying. Children and youth often need help to stop bullying. Parents should never be afraid to call the school to report that their child is being bullied and ask for help to stop the bullying. Students should not have to tolerate bullying at school any more than adults would tolerate similar treatment at work.