Monday, October 14, 2013

Bully Band-Aids

The emails are already coming in to my mailbox. School has been in session long enough for “relationship issues” to surface, and both parents and teachers are looking for help with bullying and relational aggression.

So often, the situation gets polarized into the victim, who receives support and sympathy AFTER the bullying has occurred. If the problem occurs on school time, the bully is often punished. Especially egregious situation might prompt a vigil, a t-shirt with a catchy slogan, a wrist band, or a school assembly program. These are what I call band aid approaches because they are one time programs that may increase awareness, but have little long term impact.

The National Association for School Psychologists offer an excellent resource for any adult who cares about children and their relationships. They describe important attributes to encourage in youth, and make the point that prevention is the most effective strategy.

That’s why relationship skills need to be started at a young age. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction describes the effectiveness of their developmentally based approach to bullying prevention, which offers programs to students from elementary school through middle school. While most of their content relates to aggression, even young children respond positively.

A focus on relationship skills is an important part of bullying prevention. The Polk School District in Michigan has developed an excellent resource for teaching relationship skills to students of all ages. Take a look and you’ll see that learning to communicate, making and keeping friends, and collaborating with others are abilities that not only reduce the likelihood of aggression but help children form relationships that help rather than hurt.

Not surprisingly, that’s what Club and Camp Ophelia ( are all about, too!

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