In the United States, bullying is one of the most common health concerns regarding children (Brown, Low, Smith & Haggerty, 2012). Bullying is described as a repeated aggressive behavior that causes harm to others (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p.
357). “Those who bully are four times more likely than non-bullies to be convicted of a serious crime by age 24” (Piotrowsko & Hoot, 2008 p. 363). Bullying can cause children to have psychological, emotional and behavioral problems (Brown, et al., 2012). Elementary schools have been attempting to create solutions to reduce the violence.
Teachers can set rules for their students, implement anti-bullying programs to inform bystanders and parents. Teachers are the key to decreasing bullying through helping the students understand bullying behavior and teaching them techniques to confront it.
Teachers need to be able to recognize the characteristics of a bully in order to help them. Bullies are usually emotionally insecure and exaggerate confidence (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p. 357). Some children become bullies in order to “mitigate their feelings of frustration and failure” (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p. 359). Often bullies are consumed by fear and jealousy and have trouble empathizing with other students. Usually they target students who are outsiders of a group or seem to be vulnerable (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p. 359). Teachers need to be able to identify a bully and understand where they are coming from, to help them overcome the behavior.
In order to help decrease violence, it’s crucial that teachers create a set of rules for their students. Teachers should create a system to help their students stay aware of their actions.
A behavior chart is a good system to use. In a behavior chart, each student has his or her own pocket and the teacher places different color cards in it representing each student’s behavior. For example, a green card means great behavior, your classmates and the teacher will thank you at the end of the day. If a student has made a poor choice such as bullying or lying then they will receive a brown card where the principal and the parent will be notified (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p. 360). When a bully does not follow the rules, they need to be told in private because often an audience is what they are seeking. The bully needs to be given “explicit instruction” on how to improve their behavior. For example, if a child is excluding another child from the group at recess, the child needs to understand that that is not an acceptable behavior. They need to be told how to include the child and how to ask them to join (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p. 360). In Bandura’s social cognitive experiment, he found that if children do not see consequences for poor behaviors then they are more likely to imitate them (Myers, 2014 p. 478). If teachers want to decrease bullying in their classroom, they need to enforce rules and have consequences.
Parents and bystanders are important in assisting teachers in stopping bullying. Teachers should discuss the role of bystanders with their students. Sometimes the only way to stop a bully is with direct confrontation. Usually a bully will stop if two or more people confront them. Children need to make sure to only confront the person if they are truly being bullied (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008 p. 361). If they are unsure, then they can go to an adult. Since bullying is a “social process strongly influenced by the reactions and behavior of peers,” it is important to change the “attitudes about the acceptability of bullying through clearly labeling bullying behavior as unfair and wrong…” (Brown, et al., 2012). Techniques that bystanders can use are asking the bullying to stop then walk away, use humor, ignore the bully, or use social skills and negotiate (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008). It is important for the teacher to be supportive of both the bully and the victim. If the teacher uses forgiveness with the bully, it may lead to them permanently quitting the behaviors of a bully because they can finally feel accepted. The teacher also needs to help the victim understand that they most likely are not the first student being targeted and they have not done anything wrong (Piotrowski & Hoot, 2008). Parents should also be involved in the process. Teachers can send home take home letters about anti-bullying and its key concept, so parents can be supportive at home (Brown, et al., 2012). The process of eliminating bullies must be a combined effort of teachers, bystanders and parents.
Recently the United States has been attempting to identify effective anti-bullying programs to implement in American schools. One successful randomized control study was done on the program Steps to Respect. In the program teachers went through a one-day training learning the material they would be presenting to their students and the key concepts of the program. Teachers then delivered lessons each day to their students “focusing on social-emotional skills for positive peer relations; emotion management; and recognizing, refusing, and reporting of bullying behavior…” (Brown, et al., 2012). The teachers led discussion groups with the children and played games with them to reinforce the material (Brown, et al., 2012). Another program that has shown positive effects is bibliotherapy. Bibliotherapy is the use of books to help children cope with traumatic events in their life (Flanagan, Hock, Shelton, Kelly, Morrison & Young, 2013). In one bibliotherapy study they used children’s storybooks that included bullying and showed how the characters in the books coped during the situations. They found that “children might identify with fictional characters and bullying situations both at a cognitive and emotional level and gain insight more easily than talking directly about their own experiences” (Flanagan, et al., 2013). Bibliotherapy can be implemented to already existing anti-bullying programs. A third study examined was FearNot. FearNot is an anti-bullying virtual learning intervention program. The program is aimed at helping students who are likely to be victims of bullying. The students did an online program once a week for three weeks that developed their problem-solving skills when confronted with bullies. They were able to virtually practice different responses to the stressful situations (Sapouna, et al., 2010). This program would be useful to teachers because it gives specialized attention to victims and does not require the teachers to have any extra training. Anti-bullying programs may be the next major step in decreasing bullying in schools and helping teachers figure out techniques to inform their students about bullying.
As bullying continues to increase in the United States, it’s crucial that we take every measure possible to help decrease the problem. Teachers play a major role in educating students about bullying. Teachers can enforce rules, inform others about the issue and implement anti-bullying programs in their institution to decrease violence in elementary schools.