Changing Behavior

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The behavior that we are asking children not to engage in, bullying, is precisely what is being modeled to them. If there is a place to start, it is here, with the behavior of adults as role models.

I have worked over the past decade in private day schools and summer camps, and I have confronted how social status, financial resources, community values, cultural norms and individual behavior create obstacles to ensuring fairness and equality for all participants in the educational system. My earlier work with victims of domestic violence also showed me the extent to which family, culture and workplace pressures affect both the victim’s and the institution’s decision to acknowledge abuse or remain silent. These strains, both perceived and real, influence the development of intervention and treatment programs. It’s a confounding challenge; what works in one community or environment may not always work in another.

If there is one constant in combating bullying, however, it is this: the behavior that we are asking children not to engage in, bullying, is precisely what is being modeled to them. If there is a place to start, it is here, with the behavior of adults as role models.

Core Principles of Bullying Prevention

  • Warmth, positive interest, and involvement are needed on the part of adults in the school
  • Set firm limits to unacceptable behavior
  • Consistently use nonphysical, non hostile negative consequences when rules are broken
  • Adults in the school should function as authorities and positive role models

A human being is born with the capacity to be compassionate, empathic and kind to their fellow human being. We are not born to hate, rather hate is something we learn. It may start off very subtle but it slowly can become normative, socially acceptable, tolerated and in some cases applauded. We need to educate our children to act with dignity, fairness and to use a moral compass in life to guide them, to have pride in themselves but to respect diversity of others. I would argue that such education is as important if not more so as teaching our children to read and write, get into an advanced class, do well on their SAT and be accepted at an excellent university.

Pages about Bullying on This Site

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