A WORD ABOUT BULLIES

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Personal Whining

One thing that a teacher has to deal with on a regular basis in just about any school community is the problem with bullies.  I’ve dealt with my fair share, and I remembered noticing a pattern in their behaviour which was brought to mind when watching some of the current U.S. election nonsense.

One of the defining characteristics of bullies is a three part pattern that they follow:

  1. They annoy and victimize people around them with their actions or words.
  2. They goad until their victim strikes back in one way or another.
  3. They then proclaim that they themselves are the victim and attack the other person as being the cause of the problem.  It becomes a blame game and gets personal.

It’s pretty well a sure thing.  You see it in abusive relationships.  You see it in schoolyard bullies.  And you definitely see it in the current actions of Donald Trump.

My response in that situation has always been not so much the counseling of the bully (although some action is needed there) but rather to counsel the victims and the other people in the equation.  If the pattern can be neutralized then often so can the bully.  Mutual support amoung kids can lessen the seriousness of goading, and if it escalates to a more serious level it is usually difficult for the bully to transfer responsibility.  A united front against a bull (kind of NATO style) will often make a bully back down, as bullies habitually will target the easiest people.

We ahd a boy once in grade 7 who was ruthlessly teasing and insulting many of the girls.  For a long time we focused on the boy, trying punishment, counseling, suspension … everything.  It didn’t work and it was clear that the boy required more assistance to deal with his problem than we were prepared to give.  Then we shifted the focus and began counseling the girls, allowing them to talk about their frustrations and work them out as a group.  They also talked about what they figured must be the boy’s motivations as well.  Finally they talked about how it was likely that the situation would probably get worse before it gets better.  A bully is very much about power and attention, so when it dries up desperation takes over.  After that, the boy’s insults didn’t have the same effect on them and they often dismissed him.  It didn’t take long for the taunting to stop on its own.

Unfortunately I don’t think that if the American people ignore Trump he’ll go away.  Then again, it is the support and attention that he is getting that is likely the fuel for his actions, so if he was ignored, ya, he’d probably fade away.

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