Webster dictionary describes bullying as an abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger and more powerful. (Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary, 2014) Till recently bullying was considered a harmless and normal process of growing up. Now we know it’s not true, on the contrary recent research and studies have shown the negative impact bullying can have on children’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing. With the help of this bullying action plan, the goal is to have clear understanding of what is considered bullying, clear policies to prevent and eventually stop the undesired behavior, and responsibility and expectations of students, responsible adults, and the community as a whole.
According to National Association for the Education of the Young Child, “Childhood is a unique and valuable stage in the human life cycle. (NAEYC’s Code of Ethical Conduct Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org). It is important to provide care and education in environments which are safe, healthy, nurturing, and responsive to every child’s needs.
In a bullying environment children usually feel insecure, have difficulty learning and adjusting. Children need to feel safe, respected and supported especially in their learning environment for them to succeed and be confident. Bullying only exists in environments where it is supported either through lack of knowledge or unwillingness on the part of other students and teachers to stand up to it. Many times it is due to not understanding its impact on children and society as a whole and also, not having enough information and training to positively intervene and combat it.
According to the research mentioned in the article, “Guidance for Schools Selecting Antibullying Approaches: Translating Evidence-Based Strategies to Contemporary Implementation Realities” (Ansary, 2005), two important components of a successful anti-bullying program are: bullying prevention and addressing it once it has occurred. To stop bullying and to create a positive learning environment, it is important to work on building an environment which encourages empathy, understanding and tolerance through self-control and confidence building skills. In order to accomplish a bully free environment, students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community should all come together to become actively involved.
According to the article, “Guidance for Schools Selecting Antibullying Approaches: Translating Evidence-Based Strategies to Contemporary Implementation Realities” (Ansary, 2005), many anti-bullying programs only have accomplished moderate success in reducing bullying because of the inability of the teachers and administrators to clearly define bullying, understand and implement the program effectively, lack of clear rules and methods to implement the program. There is also absence of guidelines to assess the implementation of the program and document its success or lack of it. Based on this finding it is very important to have a clear understanding of the plan and strategies to implement it and positively measure its outcome.
Regardless of whether a child is raised by parents, grandparents, or others, the family provides the child with his/her first bonding experience and relationship.(Casper ___) It is through these interactions, the child develops socio-emotional skills. According to the article, “Early Childhood Educators’ and Parents’ Perceptions of Bullying in Preschool” (Swift , 2018), during early childhood young children learn prosocial and non-social behaviors as such educators and parents should use children’s display of negative behaviors as an opportunity to teach them to distinguish right from wrong. It is the parent’s responsibility to learn themselves and teach their children appropriate and positive ways to respond to conflicts. The children should be given the opportunity to learn the importance of caring for others, getting along, and dealing with anger. It is equally important for parents to teach their children to stand up to bullying in a safe manner.
First of all, for the parents to become an advocate, they must have a clear understanding of the forms of bullying and strategies to help prevent it. This may require reaching out to various resources such as the library or other organizations to get the appropriate information. The obligation is on them to educate themselves in order to be able to teach their children. They should familiarize themselves with their school or district’s bullying policy, either through reading the policies, talking to school personnel or attending parent education classes. Every school has a guidance counselor or a social worker who is a great resource for information. A school counselor can provide parents with strategies which can decrease child’s risk of experiencing bullying along with ways to help them develop socially and emotionally. (Saracho, 2017)
Parents need to act proactively by taking steps to know and understand what is going on with their children. This may be as simple as having regular chats or conversations with their child about their day, or by maintaining parental control over their child’s phone so that they know what their child is doing, and whom they are communicating with, and what they are communicating. Another important consideration for parents is the fact that parents are a child’s first role model, and their words and actions set the tone of the environment for acceptable behavior. If parents are kind, empathetic and show understanding and tolerance, then children are more likely to pick up these traits, whereas the opposite also holds true. Bad language, aggressive behavior and showing disrespect for others are also quickly picked up, and promote an atmosphere where bullying is considered normal and acceptable. Spending good quality time as a family helps counteract any negativity the child may be feeling or experiencing. It helps strengthen the family bond, and builds a stronger bond of trust and honesty, which would better encourage a child to speak up if they are experiencing any problems.
Bullying is a student-experienced problem. (Swift, 2018) This is means students themselves are victims, perpetrators or bystanders. Students are equally responsible for creating an ambiance of acceptance, respect and safety at schools. They must be included as active participants in implementing the anti-bullying action plan. This allows the children to understand exactly what is considered bullying and the consequences which will be given out to students who either act as a bully or encourage bullying behavior. It is important for children to understand the feeling and emotional turmoil a bullied student feels. The students need to understand and realize the long lasting effects of bullying in order to empathize with what the victims go through. They also need to be able to identify bullying and learn how to step in to help someone out, and prevent it from reoccurring. This type of supportive environment enables children to speak up and ask for help, and be actively involved. They become part of the solution rather than the problem.
Another effective way to engage students is to include them in the planning process. Get the students input on effective solutions, and allow them to launch student-led programs and initiatives as part of the anti-bullying campaign. Many times due to their immaturity, children do not understand that what they are doing or saying is seen as a bullying behavior. They lack the wisdom to realize that what might seem playful might be damaging to others. Children need to learn to recognize bullying and what actions to take actions to stop and prevent it. It is important to provide children with the information and resources which will be helpful to them.
This sends the message to the children who engage in bullying behavior that their actions will not be tolerated and at the same time children who are victims of bullying learn strategies to stand up for their rights, and feel supported by the school environment and their peers. Through active participation and understanding, children are able to take responsibility for their own actions, and hopefully help others as well. In order to effectively prevent and stop bullying, it is important for both victims and bystanders to report negative behaviors. Often students hesitate to report incidents of bullying due to the fear of retaliation. They also feel that by ignoring the bullying eventually the bully will leave them alone. Students may also feel that adults do not care enough to intervene or they might make the matters worse. Students should be taught that by doing so, they are encouraging bullied behavior.
According to the article, “Training elementary school students to intervene as peer-advocates to stop bullying at school: A pilot study. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health”. ( Midgett & Doumas, 2016), the students should be taught to act as peer advocates through the use of “STAC” bullying intervention strategies. Through the use of these strategies, the students use humor to steal the show by taking attention away from the bullying situation. Another strategy is to turn it over to a responsible adult who can help out. The student can identify a responsible adult who they can confide in and will help them out. It is important that children have a trustworthy adult with whom they share a comfortable relationship and feel able to confide in. Through the accompany strategy, the student advocates reach out to the bullied friend to let him/her know that he/she is not alone and at the same time compassionately send the message to the bully that the behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Teachers are the catalysts which have the power to make the school environment a safe place for the children. Teachers are not only directly involved with the children but also have the authority to implement the safety procedures and policies thus ensuring the school environment encourages the safety and well-being of all individuals. Due to this, teachers play a very important role when it comes to addressing bullying and peer victimization. According to the article, “How individual and environmental factors influence teachers’ bullying intervention Psychology in the Schools,” (Song, 2018), both individual and environmental factors are responsible for the ways teachers respond to bullying. The teacher’s motivation, attributional style, and preparedness to deal with situations as well as the support received from outside sources all play a critical role, and must be considered when dealing with the issue of bullying.
In order to effectively prevent bullying, the teachers should be able to understand exactly what is considered bullying, as well as when and how to intervene. Knowledge is the key in this type of environment. When teachers have proper trainings and knowledge, they can use the opportunity to help children learn, develop and understand normal social behavior, thereby helping prevent future bullying.
Teachers’ self-efficacy plays an important role when implementing programs which target children’s social and emotional functioning (Swift, 2018). Even though teachers understand and know the seriousness of the effects of bullying many are still hesitant to get involved. This in fact is due to their lack of understanding school and district policies, proper training and unwillingness to intervene. Teachers need to understand that because of their role, they are in a better position to reach out to the school and district administrators. They can use their authoritative power to bring together all involved to help put together effective policies to help prevent bullying.
“Students feel that either teacher don’t care enough or that going to the teachers makes things worse”. (Palmer 2018) It is important for any teacher, whether preschool or high school, to develop strong, trusting and nurturing relationships with the students. Teachers should encourage and promote open communication with their students. As children grow older, they feel that going to a teacher about a friend’s behavior makes them a “snitch” or “tattler”. It is essential to make the children understand that approaching an adult about issues that are bothering them is the right thing to do as it means getting help for themselves or someone else who may need it. It is a concept that needs to be constantly and consistently reinforced amongst children in order for them to realize that it is the right step to take.
Teachers also need to openly discuss with their students the definition and effects of bullying. They need to understand what it is and how it impacts others before they can talk about prevention. Teachers need to use daily experiences as a teaching tool, so that the children can relate. In fact, children as young as three years old can understand the consequences of their actions. It is important for teachers to include empathy and kindness as a part of their curriculum. Anti-bullying activities which children can relate to or see in action provides them with an opportunity for further dialogue.
Through age-appropriate books and materials, teachers can incorporate anti-bullying curriculum into the daily classroom. A teacher is really the decisive factor in his/her classroom and it’s their tone which sets the classroom environment. It is very important for the teacher to lay the foundation for a positive classroom because that is what sets the tone and environment for the children’s behavior. When teachers ignore bullying or negative behavior from the children, the children begin to see view it as acceptable. Once that dangerous precedent has been set, it often begins to escalate and spread. Also, it is crucial that teachers display and engage in positive behaviors themselves as they are role models for the children. There may be instances where certain teacher behavior can also be considered bullying, so teachers themselves need to be self-aware and vigilant of their own words and actions as well. This includes not using their power and authority to humiliate or achieve desired outcomes.
In addition, another primary goal for teachers is to work in partnership with families and involve them in the child’s school life. When students see strong home-school collaboration, they tend to take more responsibility, and are more accountable for their actions.
Even though the role of student, parent, teacher and community is important in curbing bullying, it is the role of the administration which takes the center stage. It is they who need to buy into the importance of having a strong anti-bullying plan. The school administration which includes the school board, principal and vice-principal should make available the resources, training and support needed to implement the program school-wide. These administrators need to educate themselves as well so as to not to violate any laws (federal, state, or county) when writing the policies to safeguard the interests of each and every individual who is part of the school community. It is important to remember everyone has rights whether it’s the bully or victim. Administration also needs to be clear and consistent in implementing the policies. They need to consider the legalities when taking action. It is the responsibility of the administration to have written policies available to parents, students, teachers and community members.
“Effective anti-bullying programs require leadership staff to nurture a positive school climate through effective communication and modeling behaviors such as kindness and civility” (Ansary, 2015). The administrators are responsible to oversee that the programs and policies put together are being consistently implemented throughout the school. The teachers and students should have received enough training to recognize the signs of bullying and the various strategies that can be used. Most of the time administrators are not directly involved with children as such so they need to involve teachers and other support staff in planning the policies. Staff members feel connected, valued and are motivated to take initiative when administrators reach out to them for their opinions.
It is the responsibility of the administration to have a timeline to introduce, train and implement the plan. They also need to clearly establish the responsibilities and roles of everyone involved. There should be clear directives which need to be followed in case of grievances. It is also important for the administration to have a procedure to see if the plan is effectively being implemented and is effective. A good administration needs to continuously revisit its policies and procedures to meet the needs of changing environments.
The only way to prevent bullying from taking place in our society is to make it a priority of everyone. In essence, it is not just the responsibility of teachers, schools, and parents. The community at large can play a very important role in combating it. The repercussion if everyone doesn’t work together can have a huge negative impact. The community leaders can puta uniform voice to support and advocate for the children. The community is able to provide safe-space social opportunities for children to engage with others, build their self-esteem, gain confidence, and learn respect, understanding and empathy for others. The community often plays an essential role, whether bullying is taking place at school or elsewhere.
Organizations such as the local YMCA, sports organizations, religious groups such as mosques and churches, businesses, and the police station, are popular places where children have opportunity to get involved and get active. They provide a variety of social opportunities such charity and volunteer work for students to participate, thus teaching them empathy. It also them turn their negative experience into a positive one. All these teach students to deal with various emotions such as anger management, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
Sports and special interest activities can help build up self-esteem and teaches the children to have respect for others. It also allows them the opportunity to engage with children they otherwise would not have the opportunity to. Adults at these organizations often play a crucial role as they are helping distressed children navigate through difficult social terrain. Parents may feel more comfortable approaching the Tae Kwon Do master or the local priest for help regarding their child rather than the classroom teacher. These community leaders also serve as positive role models and may be turned to for advice and/or counselling.
The community is arguably one of the most important resources, which allows children an outlet to express their emotions and/or energies in a pro-active, safe manner. It teaches helps them to learn how to handle and deal with whatever underlying issues that they might be experiencing. It helps provide the children with a safe place other than from school or home environment to seek help if needed. Community advocates help identify when bullying is occurring and can take steps to prevent it. They are in a unique position which enables them to respond quickly and help prevent future bullying. By partnering up with families and schools, they are better able to deal with the issue.
In conclusion, bullying is a very complex issue that needs to be addressed on a wide-scale level. As we are aware, both bullied and bystander children can experience significant emotional distress. This reinforces the importance of creating a positive learning environment through having an effective anti-bullying action plan in place and consistently implementing anti-bullying strategies to achieve the desired result. Working in close collaboration with parents, teachers, administrators, and the community we can provide an atmosphere of acceptance, respect and tolerance.