Bullying and Conflict
As a human being it is vital to feel appreciated by others. To be left out and treated as different is a very serious matter. Loneliness is the twin of bullying. That is why bullying is very dangerous.
Bullying takes place when insecurity exist between people. When experiencing insecurity, it becomes important to stick together. As a way to avoid being left out, it becomes important to act like those in the community you would rather be like. And when you are inside the community you have to ensure that you do not look or behave like those who are outside, otherwise you risk exclusion.
Compassion for others (empathy) is a thoughtful attitude that is overshadowed when the alarm centre is activated and the thinking brain turned down (Read more: The Thinking Brain and the Alarm Center). Thoughts about your own mental and social survival will dominate. An insecure environment may force you to care for yourself first and foremost. The consequence might be loss of empathic insight towards people outside the community, thus seeing them as objects. This can happen to all people, both children and adults. At worst we define other people as enemies. This psychological mechanism – the loss of compassion, is the same everywhere: in bullying at school, at work or at home. Even all the way to the extreme: full scale genocide.
An insecure community produces contempt rather than dignity. It can be violent but usually contempt show up discreetly in everyday life’s minor events.
Fear of exclusion stresses everyone in an unsafe community – those outside as well as those inside who are afraid of being excluded. It can control all actions. Insecurity creates both bullies and victims. Scolding and reproaching make it worse. Adults who berate and disparage others become role models for bullying.
Security is created through decisions
- Let all children and adultsknow what security, insecurity and bullying does to us.
- Be friendly and attentive – especially to people who have a tough time.
- Cultivate diversity actively in your community rather than sameness.
- Communities grow when we gather around discovery and learning something exciting.
- Never use derogatory language.
- Don´t ever scold or blame others. In an insecure environment, all are victims and punishment and blame only makes it worse.
- Accept that it takes time to build confidence; it is okay to make mistakes and practice.
A good little helper trick is to use the 3 Positive.
One way to increase positivity in the mind is to use the body – exercise! This creates feel-good mood chemicals in the brain. And if you urgently need to calm your alarm centre, you just breathe deeply and slowly until you feel how inner peace fills your body and head. Read more about Breathing.
Resolving bully conflicts
Research on bullying shows that scolding and punishment at best does not make a difference, at worst it makes the situation worse. In general it´s crucial to take preventative action as described above.
In addition, acute and current situations must of course be resolved too. Agitated people need peace and understanding. This applies to bullied victims as well as bullies. It is a prerequisite for the brain’s alarm center to relax and for the person to calm down and reflect rationally again. Read more here. Here are some useful phrases:
- I understand you are … (sad, angry, mad, etc.)
- What do you think about what has happened …
- It’s good that you are … (what you want from him or her). Read also The Story of Patience.
- It´s hard right now … but it´s good we are able to train ourselves and learn to …
If an agitated person is scolded, an external peace can easily be created – that person may quieting down and start behaving. There is a chance, however, that fear is created in the alarm centre, which can make it harder than necessary to cope in future life.
A short time out being alone and away from a conflict situation will often help to calm the alarm centre (it is very important to explain that a ‘time out’ is not a punishment but rather a means to find peace of mind). This applies to bullies as well as victims.
Learning simple techniques on how to soothe the alarm centre, thus be able to ‘keep a cool head and a warm heart’ can be a tremendous help. Read more: The Thinking Brain and the Alarm Centre, How to Calm the Alarm Centre and Breathing.
Credit, reward and protection
When trying to help a child or groups of children to change their behavior, you can use a point system. You should give an explenation in advance, and a warning before any sanctions:
- Give credit (specific, short and without reservation) on positive behavior, even at minor events (and perhaps, to start with, rewards with points or something else).
- Ignore, remove points and remove privileges (time-limited) when behavior is negative.
The Class Behavior Game is very well suited to deal with bullying in a group.
Protect children and young people physically and mentally from situations they cannot cope with. This applies to both victims and bullies. It may for example be a good idea for them to stay away from others for a while.
Rephrase negative events to be useful experiences and help them discover it’s okay to learn and it´s okay to practice. Make a ‘Plan of Practice’ involving easy situations to start with and a little harder later on. That way the child understands the effectiveness of practice and gains a feeling of success from learning to control their alarm centre. Use Smartphone (danish) for practice. Read more: Resilience and Praise, A Way to Success and Help Someone Else.
A child who becoms better after a difficult period has learned something very important: problems can be solved! When a person gets unconditional support – ‘I believe in you, and I mean it!’ – and is given proper follow-up, positive changes will happen for most people. ‘Pattern breakers’ are people who have lived a thriving life in spite of very poor life conditions in childhood. They have one thing in common: one or more people around them have believed in the possibility for change and have never failed their support.
- The Incredible Years – A troubleshooting guide for parents, written by Carolyne Webster-Stratton (Policy Press 2009).
- Ross W. Greene: Lost in the school (Pressto 2009). See more at www.livesinthebalance.org
- Ben Furman: Kids Can (Hans Reitzel 2005). See also www.kidsskills.org
- Raising Children Network from Australia