While bullying prevention programs are critical, schools are really lost when it comes to treating the immediate, acute and ongoing problem: active bullies.
There are literally hundreds of fantastic bullying prevention programs and groups making great progress out there in preventing children from bullying. BRAVO and please continue that hard work! Unfortunately, the other key part of the equation is all but ignored in schools: CONSEQUENCES FOR THE BULLY.
I think most folks are quite clear that once a bully has begun to bully, if he/she is not stopped early, introspects and understands why bullying is damaging to both the victim and himself, he/she will continue bullying.
Herein lies the problem. Children who have experimented with bullying can still be re-directed by prevention programs. Unfortunately, there are literally hundreds of thousands seasoned bullies age 9-18 out there who are completely unaffected by prevention programs.
The only way to reform a seasoned bully is with clear consequences that force he/she to understand life will be less fulfilling, interesting and enjoyable or downright scary if he/she continues to bully. In fact, most bullies won't change until they stop feeling "invincible" and break the bullying habit.
As with any child, most bullies fall into a routine/habit and can't stop. Like any other bad habit, they can't stop until they want to stop.
Which is why parents/communities/schools need to add "teachable consequences" into their anti-bullying programs.
Bullies tend to be narcissistic and won't understand anything unless it is presented in such a way that clearly demonstrates how harmful bullying will be to them.The answer to this dilemma for schools and parents? Provide consequences that illustrate the scary path a bully will go down if they continue to bully.
Bullies need to know about 60% of seasoned bullies will be incarcerated or charged by the time they are 24 yrs old. This is true across all socioeconomic status.
What To Do? Based on number and gravity of offenses, use the following types of consequences:
- Require bullies to research the topic and understand the impact of bullying
- Mandate that they write an essay how why bullying is horribly damaging for victims as well as bullies
- Make volunteer service in homeless shelters where former victims and bullies reside to better understand how bullying affects adults
- Initiate visits to reformed gang members where the bully can learn how bullying translates to crime and tragedy
- Create an in-school service model where bullies are forced to clean/perform work around the school that are reserved for only bullying offenses and where other children see them
- Require commitment letters to be written by the bully that promise to stop the bullying and provide clear action steps outlining how the bully will change their behavior and attitudes
- Probation programs with a school probation officer have worked well too
- Meetings with a police officer who outlines the law, the effects of bullying on victims and bullies articulating the fact that bullying is a crime and charges can be pressed are very effective
There are many other highly effective ideas that work well too.
If you do nothing else today, share the above with your school and help them get started. You will see a difference quickly in the level and frequency of bullying in your schools. See our book for much more on this topic.
"When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions For Parents and Educators" is available on www.amazon.com and www.solutionsforbullying.com