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Has your child been hurt by others’ words? Did someone say something about her choice of clothes or about her ability to answer the teacher’s questions? Has she been left out or excluded from some outing or event her “friends” attended? Do others accuse her of overreacting?

Just because people have always been mean to those with differences does not mean that we have to continue to empower those who are mean or make the ones they victimize feel like the guilty ones.

The Role of Words and Actions

Recently Susan Diamond wrote a post titled Tips on Teasing. My initial reaction was one of being punched in the stomach, yet I know that wasn’t Diamond’s intention.

  • First, I do not like the word teasing as the connotation minimizes mean behavior, so let’s call repeated meanness that harms others by the correct term, bullying.
  • Second, let’s stop victimizing the injured party further by making them feel that they are flawed or like they encouraged others to mistreat them.
  • Third, reprimanding bullies has never been shown to be effective, so why do it?

Changing the Role of Teachers, School Counselors and School Administration

Teach by example. Model considerate behavior and avoid embarrassing students in front of their peers where possible.

  • Teaching children to ignore the bullies or to use comebacks is only effective if there are other supports in place and if the child has confidence. Telling kids to do this also implies that the behavior of the bullies is excusable. Bullying creates a hostile learning environment and is inexcusable.
  • Talk to bullies or any disruptive student away from others either outside of the classroom or when the other students are out of the classroom.
  • Encourage bystanders to standup to bullies and reward those who do with a tangible reward like a homework pass.
  •  Give bullies consequences that address bullying. For instance, for a middle schooler’s first offense, you might have them do a research paper about why bullying is wrong along with an apology letter to the person they harmed.
  • Talk to the parents of everyone involved when you have repeat offenders. This includes the parents of the bystanders. Everyone in your school culture has a responsibility to change the environment to one of respect and kindness.

Support Matters
As I said in my previous post Eliminate Bullying in Your School, the bullies’ victims need to know that the school is working with the bullies. They need to know that they are not at fault for the meanness the bullies inflict on others. Having differences is not an excuse for being abused. Differences that do not harm others should be accepted and respected. Some differences will even need to be accommodated.