Peace River School Division is recognizing anti-bullying week this week, although bullying is something the staff and students of schools have to deal with every day to some degree or another.
Many PRSD schools choose to deal with bullying by focusing on positive behaviour with the goal of teaching students to behave without resorting to verbal, physical or cyber bullying behaviour.
There are two sides to the bullying equation – the bully’s side and the victim’s side and schools have to deal with both. In the past, school administrators either punished the bullies when they caught them in the act or ignored them believing it is better for children to learn to deal with bullies on their own.
The thing about punishing bullies is that it kind of reinforces the bully’s belief that might makes right – the only reason you can punish him or her is because you are bigger or have more power than they do, punishment has to be chosen carefully to reflect the crime.
Not punishing bullies though, leaves another problem in that they don’t have any reason to stop their negative behaviour and any time a victim reacts to their bullying their behaviour tends to escalate.
Social isolation may be the only way to convince some people to stop their bullying but isolation is one of the cruellest non-physical punishments devised.
Bullying left unchecked leads to family violence and other violent crimes, so leaving the bullies and their victims alone only causes more problems down the road.
There are strategies that kids can use (One set is called WITS – Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek help). Ultimately though, if the bully won’t let his or her chosen victims walk away and refuses to be ignored or talked out of bullying, the students need to be able to find help and not all teachers have the training to deal with bullies, nor do all students have the guts to help another student stand up to a bully.
There are long-term consequences for the victims of bullying: Withdrawal from family and school activities, wanting to be left alone, shyness, stomachaches, headaches, panic attacks, not being able to sleep, sleeping too much, being exhausted and nightmares.
In the longer view of life, bullying can have large-scale consequences for society.
People who get away with bullying as children grow up to be employers, lawyers, policemen, doctors and politicians and continue to bully wherever they can get away with it.
If your child complains about being bullied at school talk to the teacher. If the teacher can’t do anything, talk to the principal and if the principal can’t do anything get your child to another school.
If your child is the bully, ask yourself where they learned their behaviour because you may have to change some of your behaviour before they will change theirs.