Educating students in such a way as to prevent bullying occurring in a school is clearly a major undertaking, and has been attempted in a number of ways. Each may be seen as having a somewhat different rationale.
Encouraging Cooperativeness between Students
It is thought that when children place a high value on cooperating with others they will be disinclined to bully. Also, it has been proposed that using teaching methods that enable children to enjoy success through cooperatively working on problems can achieve this end. In the United States, Johnson and Johnson have been prominent and forceful promoters of cooperative learning; in the United Kingdom similar work is promoted by Cowie et al. Children who are inclined to bully others and also children who are often victimized are generally less willing than others to engage in cooperative activities (Rigby & Cox). Helping such children to participate more fully in group activities is seen as particularly important.
Promoting Empathic Feelings
It is believed that having empathic feelings towards someone inhibits acting aggressively towards that person. There is also evidence that children who bully others tend to have relatively low levels of empathy. They have negative feelings towards children who are easily victimized. They find it difficult to put themselves in the same position as those who are being bullied (see Farley; Rigby & Slee). It is sometimes argued that teachers can use methods of instruction that increase the capacity for empathy (see McMahon et al), for example, through the use of (a) story telling, in which children become sympathetically involved; and (b) role playing in which children take the part of characters against whom there is group prejudice.
Modeling and Rewarding Prosocial Actions
Bullying like other behaviors may be influenced through social learning. For example, bullying is encouraged when an admired person is seen as controlling or dominating others through the use of threats. By contrast, when a person who is generally admired acts in a prosocial manner the tendency to act antisocially is reduced. For some children, especially in primary schools, it is thought that behavior modeled by teachers can influence how children behave towards each other. Hence, some programs have emphasized the importance of teachers acting respectfully towards students and avoiding the use of threats in order to control classes. An extension of this principle has led some schools to identify and reward children who have helped others.
Developing Greater Control over Anger
Bullying may sometimes occur when an impulsive child is unable to control feelings of anger. Such feelings may be expressed in order as to frighten someone and establish dominance over that person. Not all bullying occurs in this way, but some may. Programs of anger control have been devised with a view to reducing bullying (McMahon et al.).
Teaching Social Skills
Bullying may occur because a child does not know how to respond to aggression or threats made by another person or group of children. Accordingly, in some schools a great deal of attention has been placed upon helping children to respond to aggression more effectively. For the most part, this has involved helping children to make appropriate judgments about the options they have when they are attacked. While it is acknowledged that in some situations, acting assertively may not be the best answer, it is thought that children who can demonstrate assertive behavior when challenged are much less likely to be bullied. In addition, the acquisition of skills for making friends is seen as useful and teachable because children with friends who will help them when they are in trouble are less vulnerable to attack. It is sometimes argued that children who bully others also tend to lack social skills, and that they would achieve the ends they seek in more socially acceptable ways if they only knew how. This view, however, has been challenged by those who have pointed out that bullies often have better than average social skills and are often supported by other students who admire their capacity to dominate others.
Teaching Children How to Help Others
It has been shown that children of all ages are, by and large, supportive of children who are victimized by others—as far as their attitudes go! Bullies are generally despised. Students typically say that they would feel ashamed of themselves if they engaged in bullying someone (Rigby). It may be concluded that many more children would help their peers if they saw them being bullied; that is, if they knew how to do so, and especially if the risk of intervening was not seen as being too great. In fact, most bullying in schools occurs in the presence of other students and in most instances none of the bystanders does anything to discourage the bully or bullies (Pepler & Craig). Teaching students to help others has recently focused upon what bystanders can do when they witness bullying without putting themselves at great risk. The use of role—plays to demonstrate how bullying behavior is affected by the responses that observers make is one proposed means. It is argued that training students to be more sensitive and effective bystanders of bullying incidents helps to reduce the likelihood that bullying will take place.
Providing Quality Education
Boredom has been identified as a factor that can give rise to bullying (Rigby). Not surprisingly, it has been argued that bullying can be prevented through the development of more relevant curricula and the use of teaching methods engross children and foster their child’s interest in learning.
- Rigby EdD, Ken; What It Takes to Stop Bullying in Schools: An Examination of the Rationale and Effectiveness of School-Based Interventions; in Appraisal and Prediction of School Violence; Michael J Furlong et al (eds); Nova Science Publishers Inc: New York; 2004
Personal Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about educational approaches with students to prevent bullying. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
According to Rigby, what are seven ways to prevent bullying by educating students?
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