Bullying at school is not a new problem. Quite the contrary: It’s been going on, doubtlessly, since the very first one-room schoolhouse opened its doors. But, today, educators are rightfully trying to take a more proactive approach to preventing and minimizing the devastating effects of bullying in the classroom, as well as the hallways, cafeterias, restrooms and playgrounds …
How common is bullying at school?
In a recent study of more than 15,000 U.S. students in grades six through 10:
- Seventeen percent reported having been bullied “sometimes” or more often during the past school year.
- Nineteen percent said they had bullied others “sometimes” or more often.
- Six percent reported both bullying others and having been a victim of bullying.
Bullies tend to exhibit common traits. They:
- Are impulsive and easily angered.
- Have a strong need to dominate and subdue others, and get their own way.
- Are defiant and aggressive toward adults, as well as toward fellow students.
- Show little empathy toward those who are victimized.
And recognizable traits among victims of bullying include:
- Caution, shyness, sensitivity, and a tendency to be withdrawn or quiet.
- Anxiety, insecurity, and low self-esteem.
Victims often don’t have even a single close friend, and they may relate better to adults than to their own peers. In some cases, they may be depressed or engage in suicidal ideation more often than their peers.
What You Can Do
On either side of the victim/aggressor picture, bullying is not pleasant, healthy, or conducive to anyone’s academic progress or physical or mental health. As a school psychologist, you can take the lead in eliminating bullying by:
- Providing early intervention: Group, classroom and building-wide social skills training can begin as early as preschool. Counseling and systematic intervention for students who exhibit either bullying or victim behavior patterns, may be needed.
- Balancing discipline with behavioral support: There need to be clear and consistently enforce consequences for bullying behavior. Discipline must address both specific behaviors and their root causes. For example, it often is effective to incorporate positive behavioral interventions with loss of privileges.
- Empowering students to support each other. Teaching children to collaborate and stand up to bullies is critical. Students also need to learn to reach out to excluded peers and reinforce the availability of adult support. This can change culture and create a “caring majority” of students who become part of the anti-bullying solution, rather than “accepting bystanders.”
- Promoting a positive school environment. Schools with easily understood rules of conduct and fair discipline practices report lower rates of aggressive student behavior and violence. Adults must be visible and vigilant in any areas where bullying may occur. This includes buses, and even on the way to and from school, to protect children who walk.
What could be more important than protecting children’s health, well-being and self-esteem? The success of their academic experience depends on it.
For additional resources to advance your school-based psychology career, turn to the Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team. Read our related posts or contact us today.