With statistics this staggering, it’s no wonder that bullying is a hot topic in education today.
Much of the conversation focuses on what to do after an incident is reported.
We’d like to take a slightly different approach today.
What if, instead of focusing on what to do after bullying occurs, we talk about how to discourage bullying in the first place by empowering students and creating a supportive classroom culture?
Before you laugh this off as pie-in-the-sky thinking, consider how powerful it would be for students to embrace the following truths that we explore with students in our Quantum Learning programs:
1. Just because someone is offering rejection doesn’t mean you have to accept it.
Students tend to accept rejection without a second thought. That’s because part of them worries the rejection really is valid. Even the student who throws rejection back in the face of a bully has still taken on the rejection and accepted it. Their anger is indicative of their deep hurt.
What students need to hear is that they don’t have to take on other people’s rejections. In Quantum Learning, we teach students that if a bully (or anyone for that matter) doesn’t like them, it says more about the bully than it does about them.
When students realize that they don’t have to accept everything that is said about them, they can choose their response rather than going with their gut reaction that may escalate the conflict. They feel empowered to respond without fear of criticism.
2. Flash judgments often lead to painful labels and hard-to-shake masks.
It’s easy for students to forget that they personally contribute to unsafe classroom cultures by making flash judgments about others. Students who have taken a label to heart may wear a “mask” rather than acting according to how they feel.
At Quantum Learning, we invite students to speak openly about the labels they’ve been given and the masks they wear. This is usually a very emotional time for stude
nts and marks a major turning point for many of them.
The awareness that they are not the only ones hurting helps students take the first step toward authenticity in their relationships. It also encourages them to give others space to be themselves, rather than making flash judgments.
3. Develop resiliency by owning who you are and not letting others define you.
Victims of bullying are never to blame, and we certainly need to address bullying head on. But the reality is that all of us face negative comments from time to time, whether they’re meant to be hurtful or not.
Developing resiliency is critical. When students (or adults) own who they are, they are less likely to be bullied. And if they do become targets of bullying, they will be better equipped to handle the attack without letting it tear down their self-esteem.
4. Speak with good purpose about yourself.
What we don’t typically consider is the importance of speaking with good purpose about ourselves. We become our own worst bully when we feed ourselves negative self-talk.
When students identify negative self-talk, whether spurred by a bully or something internal, they can replace it with a more positive and accurate personal affirmation statement.
These are just a few ways of discouraging bullying. When these principles are embraced and embodied by teachers and their students, students will feel empowered and the classroom culture will shift to one where differences are respected.