Bullies and Bad Behavior
We have probably seen the spot on television where a teenager is bullied at her locker. As others watch, the message encourages a bystander to speak up. What should she do? Will she be the next target? The question I ask is how did this bullying behavior continue for so long?
Unfortunately, bullies are all around us. I was bullied as an adult as I constantly advocated for compliance with the I. E. P. But when children are bullied, these traumatic experiences can leave long lasting and devastating effects far into their adulthood. Intervention is crucial, both for the victim and the bully.
What makes a bully? How do little boys and girls begin to take pleasure in meanness? Are they bullied at home? Do their siblings tease and belittle them? Are they yelled at and punished, leaving them feeling helpless and unable to defend themselves? Is it any wonder then that children who sustain this abuse would lash out at others, particularly, those who seem to be weaker than they are? The bullied become the bullies. But when we look beyond the behavior, we can see children who are hurting, children who are scared, and children who need our help.
Bullies who entered my class did not last long. The child did. The bully did not. It was too hard to be mean, first, because there were consequences for bad behavior. Second, there were rewards for kindness and these rewards were frequent and ongoing. Rules which were posted on the wall were reviewed each day. One rule was reinforced constantly. WE ARE KIND TO EACH OTHER. When we speak to each other in a kind tone and use kind words, kindness seeps into the spirit and becomes a habit. Just as inappropriate behavior is learned, we must take time continually to inculcate good behavior until it becomes routine.
When we work with children who have behavior issues we must show them continually that they can trust us so that they can learn to trust themselves. We must show them patience and a consistent desire to help them cope with their frustration, anger, and sadness. Our expectations must be fair. Academic work must be appropriate to their abilities. We must give them opportunities to shine. We must saturate them with the knowledge that they are loved, that they are worthy, that they can overcome the obstacles that had overwhelmed them in the past. They can achieve. They can succeed.
Bullies and bad behavior may be among us but they are not here to stay if we continue to see the children within the angry facade, the children who need, indeed, yearn for us to believe in them. We must succeed in this for our children today and for the adults they will become.