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A Friendlier Approach to Curbing Bullying in The Classroom

For a long time, the approach to cutting down on bullying in schools has been to punish the offenders. To make it clear that bullying is bad and wrong, and that children shouldn’t be so heartless towards their peers and defiant of the rules.

This way of dealing with bullying is the most common as it’s the easiest to enforce and most immediate in its ability to cool down a situation. But, as Cambridge University education researcher Luke Roberts points out, it’s not sustainable over the long term. In many cases, only succeeding in making the problem worse rather than better.

Roberts believes this traditional approach is not unlike the act of bullying itself. And that, therefore, school anti-bullying policies need a radical overhaul. In essence, we need to get rid of the punitive system and bring in a more sustainable solution that’ll be better for both teachers and students.

To start to bring this new research into your classroom, here are a few suggestions that will help improve how your school deals with bullying:

1. Cut out bullying language

Where there’s punitive, negative language and raised voices in schools, there’s almost always bullying. This sort of behaviour is modelling exactly what you’re trying to discourage in your students. And so, any attempt to curb bullying using this type of language will be in vain.

By simply using more positive language and not always focusing on the negatives, you set an example for students to follow. It’s also important to take a more direct approach, pointing out how students use such language when communicating with others, and suggesting a better way to interact.

2. Talk about it

Making bullying a regular topic of conversation in the classroom adds weight to the issue and helps to sensitise students to its damaging effects. Sometimes simply bringing awareness to why bullying occurs and the damage it causes is all it takes to stamp it out.

This may take the form of educating your students on how bullies are most often children who’ve experienced some form of bullying themselves. And explaining the circumstances and conditions that creates a bully and why they act the way they do. This isn’t to deflate the issue; rather the opposite — once a child has a clearer understanding of bullying and can see the bigger picture, they’re much less likely to act in a reactionary, impulsive manner.

3. Find the cause

To stamp out bullying, it’s not enough to identify negative language and talk about it more regularly. You also need to look deep into each issue independently and address it at its root.

This can be done with the mediatory guidance of a school counsellor. Talking to a professional who’s outside the situation can allow children to open up about what’s going on at home, helping to get to the bottom of the problem.

Bullying is a complex issue that won’t disappear overnight, and so an organised effort is required to tackle it on multiple levels — both inside and outside the classroom.

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