You Can’t Beat Bullying By Bullying The Bully!
Johnny, (aged 11) has been bullying Paul, (aged 11). He keeps verbally abusing him and intentionally isolating him.
Paul tells his older brother Daniel (aged 14) and Daniel decides that this is not right. As the older child who aims to be responsible and do the right thing, Daniel tells Johnny that he should leave Paul alone or else. Johnny tells Daniel that he won’t do it again.
The next day, Johnny continues to bully Paul, so Daniel shouts at Johnny and invites all of Johnny’s friends to go and hang out with him and his friends, leaving Johnny on his own for the rest of the day. Every time Johnny bullies Paul, Daniel shouts at him and then isolates him by not allowing him to join in with the fun that all of his other friends are invited to enjoy.
Johnny feels isolated and is missing out and so tells a teacher. The teacher speaks to Daniel who admits shouting at and isolating Johnny. The teacher shouts at Daniel, and puts him into isolation for the day, meaning he is not allowed to join in with the fun that the other children in his class are enjoying and so misses out. He is now classed as a Bully.
Daniel is angry and confused. In his mind, he is not a bully and has acted responsibly. He is being punished for copying the exact same procedures that he has learnt in school. He shouted at Johnny, because he had seen that was how teachers had dealt with children in the past when dealing with bullying. He then isolated Johnny from his friends for the day. The exact same consequence that the school uses for the same behaviour.
He doesn’t understand the hypocrisy of being punished for using a technique he learned at school.
He doesn’t understand the hypocrisy of it being okay for the teachers to do one thing, but not okay for him to do the exact same thing.
He doesn’t understand why it is mean when he does it, but is not mean when the teacher does it.
He doesn’t understand how isolation hurts and is mentally/emotionally harmful when imposed by someone under 18, yet is not when imposed by someone after their 18th birthday.
He doesn’t understand why he has been labelled a bully for doing the same thing to stop bullying that teachers are doing, but the teachers are not.
He begins to resent teachers and school because they talk about equality, but it is one rule for staff and another rule for student.
He feels that the teacher and the school are abusing their position and authority and using it to bully him.
He is confused because he knows the teachers will be applauded and encouraged to do that behaviour, rather than being punished like young people.
Daniel sees another younger child being bullied – he walks away – he doesn’t know what the right thing to do is anymore and he no longer trusts the teachers to go and talk to them about it. He does not feel like it is his place to get involved and try to do what’s right anymore.
Instead of bullying being ended with Johnny and Paul, it has now increased to include Johnny and Daniel, and Daniel and the teacher. Instead of one victim of bullying, there are now three. What has begun as a school policy, in this example, has become a lesson passed down from teacher to student and has created more bullies, more victims and more pain.
If the way you handle bullying is not the way that you would encourage children to behave towards one another, then it is time to rethink whether the policy is fit for purpose. Every policy is a lesson to students. It is not just a consequence of their behaviour, but a lesson in how to deal with situations. Is your school policy teaching children that the way to deal with unacceptable or unwanted behaviour, is to inflict emotional and mental pain onto another human being? Or is you school policy teaching children how they can help others to manage their behaviour and to make better choices in future?
Remember: Children learn more through observing the behaviour of others, than the words we speak.