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Buckwheat

On bullying in school

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Spin-off from the discussion here. About bullying in school and what needs to be done, if anything, about it by adults.

Last few posts:

13 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

I was agreeing with you before, but ...what? Do girls bully differently?
Oh, kids absolutely should be encouraged tell their parents. Where the tricky part comes is between the parents and the school, and what the school should do.

Maybe we should split off to a new thread? It's probably a conversation worth having, but we don't wanna hijack this thread entirely.

4 minutes ago, Vastet said:

"Why would it be any less for adults to deal with than physical abuse? Again, this just makes it sound like you do not think psychical attacks are important enough to be taken seriously."

Because boys are expected to take care of themselves and be strong. Going for help makes you look weak in front of your peers, and they jump on it like a pack of coyotes. Even people not involved in the bullying tend to side with the bullies.
If the bullying is physical, the bullied has physical evidence to back up their claim, and it is much harder to dismiss.

"At some point a child has to learn to trust and talk to the right people at hand and cooperate"

Children already know that before they go to school. School actually teaches victims of bullying that people in authority can't be trusted to help.

"Also, bullying is not "every time someone saying something you don't like", IMO."

Obviously not, but that changes nothing.

7 minutes ago, Vastet said:

"I was agreeing with you before, but ...what? Do girls bully differently?"

No. The way adults react to it is different.

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Okay, so to answer to Vastet:

Boys being expected to take care of themselves and the different way adults react to it are part of the problem here and what needs to be changed, not something we should work with. I personally cannot claim to have a personal experience with that difference, as I do not know anybody who was bullied as a boy. I think that the parents/teacher/headmaster/school counselor/whichever adult person the child chooses to talk to about being bullied should take it seriously regardless of their gender. Boys are not naturally resistent to psychical abuse.

Which people not involved with bullying tend to side with the bullies, children or adults? I do not understand that part. If it is responsible adults, then they should know better and take it seriously and most definitely not side with the bullies. A school counselor that says "Tough luck, deal with it, your bullies are right" is an incompetent one. If you think the children side with the bullies (i. e. are bullies), then they need to be punished and taught that bullying is not acceptable and they need to be stopped.

I have no idea which school you are talking about that teaches victims that people in authority cannot help. This is literally their job. And if the school is in fact doing that (I accept the idea that there might be such schools), then they need to change their policy, not keep backing the bullies and making victims of others.

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a'hem

"I was agreeing with you before, but ...what? Do girls bully differently?"

No. The way adults react to it is different. If a boy bullies a girl, almost every adult goes after the boy and supports the girl.
If a girl bullies a boy, almost every adult laughs at the boy and supports the girl.

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"Boys being expected to take care of themselves and the different way adults react to it are part of the problem here and what needs to be changed, not something we should work with. I personally cannot claim to have a personal experience with that difference, as I do not know anybody who was bullied as a boy. I think that the parents/teacher/headmaster/school counselor/whichever adult person the child chooses to talk to about being bullied should take it seriously regardless of their gender. Boys are not naturally resistent to psychical abuse."

I fully agree. But I'm not commenting on how things should be, I'm commenting on how things are. If I could change the world...

"Which people not involved with bullying tend to side with the bullies, children or adults? I do not understand that part."

Both.

"If it is responsible adults, then they should know better and take it seriously and most definitely not side with the bullies. A school counselor that says "Tough luck, deal with it, your bullies are right" is an incompetent one. "

I agree again. But unfortunately that's how it goes.

"If you think the children side with the bullies (i. e. are bullies), then they need to be punished and taught that bullying is not acceptable and they need to be stopped."

Sounds great, but how exactly do you implement this? If a child claims he's being bullied, and the bullies claim they aren't bullying, and the few witnesses back up the bullies out of fear of being bullied, then you have 1 kids word against 10 (generalisation). And some of those 10 are generally good kids that are known as generally good kids who only fear becoming victims themselves.

"I have no idea which school you are talking about that teaches victims that people in authority cannot help"

Every school I ever went to for starters. The only time I ever got help against bullies was when I called the police when it got physical.

"And if the school is in fact doing that (I accept the idea that there might be such schools), then they need to change their policy, not keep backing the bullies and making victims of others."

That would be nice, but when the above conditions are in place, even well meaning adults are stuck with one kids word vs many kids word, and they can't justify punishing kids without any evidence. If they did, it would create a whole new problem when kids figure it out and start making things up to get kids they don't like in trouble.

The core of the problem is the entire school system, where you have 1 teacher for every 20-30 students and a handful of faculty. There is not sufficient supervision.

Edited by Vastet

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I think it would be of interest to know what policies exist at the different schools, and how easy/difficult it would be to talk to a teacher or adult about the existing situation. For the record, I am a teacher, currently teaching what is 9th grade in Norway (14-15 years old).

For me, the starting point is that I believe we're uncapable of uncovering everything. Firstly, we can't trawl social media, and thus miss a lot of what's going on there. Secondly, we're not able to control students whenever they leave school premises. And finally, we can't be everywhere all the time. 

That doesn't mean we're giving up. What we do, or try to do, is firstly to watch. What can we see of patterns - not just physical stuff, which is rare to non-existent, but looking at who stands alone, who is on the outskirts of where the pupils are gathered, who hangs with who etc. Secondly, we go for relations. That's not spesifically a part of the anti-bullying work, having a good relation to the pupils helps with teaching as well. However, we believe a good relation makes it easier - not easy, mind, but easier - to come to a teacher with problems. Thirdly, asking about bullying is a part of every talk - formal - we have with the pupils. Not just "are you experiencing bullying", but also "do you know of anyone experiencing bullying". We also encourage parents to tell if they pick up anything. 

If something is uncovered, the school is mandated - by law - to draw up a plan of action towards the bullying part. This plan is sent to the parents. Reactions may vary from having the pupil staying close to the teachers during breaks to involving child care services/police. 

We are aware that we can't pick up everything. Still, we try to find out what we can, and react as soon as we hear something. 

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Okay, to expand on my previous comment:

Quote

Oh, kids absolutely should be encouraged tell their parents. Where the tricky part comes is between the parents and the school, and what the school should do.


What I mean by this is that sometimes, school authorities intervening immediately directly won't help because all they'll do is tell the bullies off in a manner that doesn't actually dissuade or teach them in any way but makes it clear that the victim told someone. A good teacher, in that sort of situation, might start paying attention and find a way to 'find out' themselves. It also depends a lot on the bullies- it's easy to paint them all as inhuman monsters, but I've certainly been in situations where a talking to - from a teacher very good at this- not only got some to stop doing it but I ended up having them on my side in other confronts.


But then in other situations a talking to would result in reprisals whether the victim told anyone or not- a lot does depend on the authority figure in question having a reasonable relationship with the bullies before the incidents happen. Makes it so much easier to talk to them as people rather than dictate at them. And that's hard, of course, and in some cases probably impossible for a given teacher.

 

 

1 hour ago, Vastet said:

a'hem

"I was agreeing with you before, but ...what? Do girls bully differently?"

No. The way adults react to it is different. If a boy bullies a girl, almost every adult goes after the boy and supports the girl.
If a girl bullies a boy, almost every adult laughs at the boy and supports the girl.

 


What about where girls bully girls?

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I'm not a girl. I can't comment on girls bullying girls anymore than a girl can comment on boys bullying boys. I never experienced it. And even though I saw it happen, I was very much motivated to stay out of it. Any time a boy gets involved with girls he's taking a significant risk.

Edited by Vastet

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some point the kid has to learn to deal with verbal abuse anyway, because you're not going anywhere in life if you run to your parents every time someone says something you don't like.

There is a difference between running to your parents because someone said something you dislike, and verbal bullying. And no, a child should not have to learn to deal with verbal abuse. Ever. It can be just as damaging, and sometimes more so, as physical bullying, as 10 years of battling mental health issues has taught me. 

 

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"There is a difference between running to your parents because someone said something you dislike"

I already agreed to this, and it still changes nothing. If you run to your parents every time you are verbally bullied, you're going to have a very rough life. Especially when your parents aren't there anymore. Most especially when your children get bullied and you don't know what todo except run to your parents.

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2 hours ago, Vastet said:

a'hem

Sorry, I think I quoted before you edited.

2 hours ago, Vastet said:

Sounds great, but how exactly do you implement this? If a child claims he's being bullied, and the bullies claim they aren't bullying, and the few witnesses back up the bullies out of fear of being bullied, then you have 1 kids word against 10 (generalisation). And some of those 10 are generally good kids that are known as generally good kids who only fear becoming victims themselves.

For example, like Polishgenius up there said, a teacher must find a way to "find out" by paying more attention to those particular children involved. Teachers are there with children all the time and they are not blind. It is true that they cannot see and hear everything that happens between children all the time, but they are capable of noticing if the same group of children always follows their victim, if the victim is trying to hide, is showing signs of being bullied such as being afraid all the time, not wanting to cooperate with some other students etc.

2 hours ago, Vastet said:

Every school I ever went to for starters. The only time I ever got help against bullies was when I called the police when it got physical.

I am very sorry you went to schools with incompetent staff then.

2 hours ago, Vastet said:

That would be nice, but when the above conditions are in place, even well meaning adults are stuck with one kids word vs many kids word, and they can't justify punishing kids without any evidence. If they did, it would create a whole new problem when kids figure it out and start making things up to get kids they don't like in trouble.

The core of the problem is the entire school system, where you have 1 teacher for every 20-30 students and a handful of faculty. There is not sufficient supervision.

Evidence will be there if you look for it. As I said, it is noticeable if a child is constantly trying to hide from others, for example. Of course you cannot notice everything from the start, but when teachers look for it, they will see it.

12 minutes ago, Vastet said:

I already agreed to this, and it still changes nothing. If you run to your parents every time you are verbally bullied, you're going to have a very rough life. Especially when your parents aren't there anymore. Most especially when your children get bullied and you don't know what todo except run to your parents.

Okay. How exactly is a child between, say, 7 and 14 years of age supposed to deal with a few bullies that are a few years older, bigger, stronger, who constantly make fun of them, causing them to feel horrible about themselves/doing other nasty things such as, blocking their way, ruining or taking their things, convincing other children to make fun of them as well ...

Also, bullying in my experience is public. The bullies I dealt with made a show out of it in front of the other children, yes, in places where teachers or other adults were not present, but also where the teachers could easily come by or in the same room teachers were at the time.

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30 minutes ago, Vastet said:


I already agreed to this, and it still changes nothing. If you run to your parents every time you are verbally bullied, you're going to have a very rough life. Especially when your parents aren't there anymore. Most especially when your children get bullied and you don't know what todo except run to your parents.

I don't think most kids have the tools to solve such a situation innately. You go to an adult in order to see how an adult handles the situation, and learn thereof.

 

But I'm not an expert, so... Grain of salt.

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"For example, like Polishgenius up there said, a teacher must find a way to "find out" by paying more attention to those particular children involved. Teachers are there with children all the time and they are not blind. It is true that they cannot see and hear everything that happens between children all the time, but they are capable of noticing if the same group of children always follows their victim, if the victim is trying to hide, is showing signs of being bullied such as being afraid all the time, not wanting to cooperate with some other students etc."

That's great, but you're depending on the competence and ethics of the staff. After my experiences, I'll never depend on that. If I have kids I'll teach them how to handle bullies.

And not all children react the same way. I didn't experience fear so much as rage. Which created additional conflicts with staff I felt were incompetent and immoral, which exacerbated conflicts with bullies and ended with me calling the police. It's a damn good thing guns are not as easy to get in Canada as the US, or I might well have beaten Columbine to the punch by a number of years. I can't condone shooting in schools, but I can certainly understand why it happens.

Plus, teachers have work to do. If they're spending time watching kids they aren't spending time with lesson plans and marks. An increase in teacher to student ratio would give teachers more time to supervise.

"Evidence will be there if you look for it. As I said, it is noticeable if a child is constantly trying to hide from others, for example. Of course you cannot notice everything from the start, but when teachers look for it, they will see it."

I don't think many teachers look for it. Maybe things are different now, but I doubt it when I read the news.

"Okay. How exactly is a child between, say, 7 and 14 years of age supposed to deal with a few bullies that are a few years older, bigger, stronger, who constantly make fun of them, causing them to feel horrible about themselves/doing other nasty things such as, blocking their way, ruining or taking their things, convincing other children to make fun of them as well ..."

I found returning the favour quite effective. Bullies play on weakness and the unwillingness or inability to reciprocate. If you start breaking their stuff they quickly learn there are consequences to their actions. If that escalates the bullies to violence, you have everything you need to bring authorities to bear.

However, I would much prefer reforming the school system to make it harder for kids of very different ages to interact unsupervised. Limit schools to 3 grades instead of 6 or 12. The only justification for packing kids of all ages into one school is that it's cheap. Personally, I think education is by far the most important part of our society, and that being cheap is creating a lot of problems for the future. Bullying being just one of those problems.

"Also, bullying in my experience is public. The bullies I dealt with made a show out of it in front of the other children, yes, in places where teachers or other adults were not present, but also where the teachers could easily come by or in the same room teachers were at the time."

In my experience the worst bullying is private. Ambushes in bathrooms and locker-rooms where adults can't even go these days without everyone screaming "paedophile!".
Some bullying occurs in crowds where you can't see what's happening without x-ray vision. Being slammed into lockers or being set on fire by someone who is shouldering their way through a crowd of kids.

"I don't think most kids have the tools to solve such a situation innately. You go to an adult in order to see how an adult handles the situation, and learn thereof."

A kid can't handle a situation the way an adult does until they are adults themselves. And quite often the kids don't see what the adults do anyway.

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As a girl all I can say is that being bullied by both girls and boys all the way through secondary school for five years majorly fucked me up big time and i theorize is the major root of my depression and only now at 22 am i genuinely getting past it and becoming a more positive happy person. 

i do think that men are conditioned to adhere to various masculine traits and if a girl bullies a boy then he is at risk of being mocked for it rather than help but let's not diminish the effects bullying has on anyone because they're vast and horrible and long lasting. 

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12 hours ago, Vastet said:

That's great, but you're depending on the competence and ethics of the staff. After my experiences, I'll never depend on that. If I have kids I'll teach them how to handle bullies.

And not all children react the same way. I didn't experience fear so much as rage. Which created additional conflicts with staff I felt were incompetent and immoral, which exacerbated conflicts with bullies and ended with me calling the police. It's a damn good thing guns are not as easy to get in Canada as the US, or I might well have beaten Columbine to the punch by a number of years. I can't condone shooting in schools, but I can certainly understand why it happens.

Plus, teachers have work to do. If they're spending time watching kids they aren't spending time with lesson plans and marks. An increase in teacher to student ratio would give teachers more time to supervise.

I agree that the situation is not always the best. I am sorry you went to a school that did not take the problem seriously. And yes, hiring more teachers would help.

12 hours ago, Vastet said:

I don't think many teachers look for it. Maybe things are different now, but I doubt it when I read the news.

I do not know. The time it happened to me, no teacher doubted what I told them and did not go into any police investigation because they trusted my word. BTW, I am not in USA nor in Canada, so it is entirely possible that our system works differently. The difference between raising boys and girls is not that noticeable here either, at least to me.

12 hours ago, Vastet said:

I found returning the favour quite effective. Bullies play on weakness and the unwillingness or inability to reciprocate. If you start breaking their stuff they quickly learn there are consequences to their actions. If that escalates the bullies to violence, you have everything you need to bring authorities to bear.

However, I would much prefer reforming the school system to make it harder for kids of very different ages to interact unsupervised. Limit schools to 3 grades instead of 6 or 12. The only justification for packing kids of all ages into one school is that it's cheap. Personally, I think education is by far the most important part of our society, and that being cheap is creating a lot of problems for the future. Bullying being just one of those problems.

Making children "return the favour" = creating more bullies. That is what we would want to avoid, not escalate the situation by having children ruining each other's stuff (which parents will then need to replace, and all of them probably cannot afford to buy a new pair of shoes or whatever every week) more, sticking more chewing gum in their hair and sending more degrading messages.

And again, it will not work with most of them. The bullies are mainly physically intimidating even if they do not hit their victims; they intentionally make the victims afraid and doubting themselves and their own abilities; they might also be normally emphatic human beings that do not actually want to hurt other people.

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My only genuine experience of bullying really came from primary school, where I was one of the favourites of the class bully - though of course she (yes, actually we didn't have any male bullies in Primary School) liked to pick on other people too. In my case I had the bad luck of being one of the people to consistently beat her in tests and such (shame I haven't gotten much smarter since I was 10). Actually, there were two bullies - the first, with her entourage of cliche friends, and another who, without the benefit of being respected as top dog or actually having /any/ friends, eventually moved to another school. 

Bullying was a lot more common in secondary school, but thankfully I managed to stay under the radar for most of it (at least, that I recall). It also differentiated between the two sexes, unless you had the misfortune of being overweight - in which case you were fair game. Really, it was all about ''the cool kids'' trying to maintain their status, as well as the ones with behavioural issues physically abusing the smaller kids (but most of all, the smaller kids who also had behavioural issues). 

So to me the solution is pretty clear. In Primary School, I'm just angry that the teacher (and the parents) didn't take a firmer hand with the bullies. 

In Secondary School, it's more of a social problem that's really no different to what most people believe anyway, except the kids had less of a filter. The problem is that it's not easy to bring the ''cool kids'' down a notch without actively tormenting them yourself. As for the behavioural issues kids, well I did go to a pretty shitty school so I won't pretend it's the norm, but the staff and school had absolutely no concept of how to deal with them. I have been approached by one of the worst fairly recently, who apologised for being such a dick - turns out he'd found that he loved music and it had changed his whole perspective. 

 

Really, the thing that helped me get past bullying is realising that the ''cool kids'' opinion didn't matter at all, as well as no longer being physically intimidated by other students (thank you, growth spurt - better late than never). In broad terms, the solution is always obvious, schools just aren't proactive enough to do anything about it.

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At the risk of lighting some fuses, there are far more victims than there are bullies. More often than not, they're one in the same. I don't mean to undermine anybody's experiences at having been bullied, or indeed having bullied somebody, but it's the truth. There is far too much comforting and protection afforded to people who feel besieged, and precious little necessity for them to do anything about it by themselves, or even to be critical of the situation (and critical of themselves, which is a much underrated quality in children, who are now largely encouraged never to apologise for who and what they are - but that's an entirely different topic).

Unfortunately, and far too frequently for my liking, people who succumb to victimhood and defeatism will commit reprehensible atrocities because they feel that the world has done ill by them, despite never attempting to do right by themselves. This is a staggeringly small number, of course, only one-in-a-million will suffice to leave a horrific stain on countless others.   

There are always exceptional instances, and of course I write with regard to the broadest sense of the word 'bullying', but, as cliché as it is: communicate. Talk to your parents, your friends, your own reflection. With introspection, empathy, and honest discourse, you'll accomplish wonders. 

If all else fails you, I've always noted that the most effective people at overcoming adversity are those who embrace it. If somebody verbally abuses you, tell them nobody has ever understood you like they; if somebody pummels you, tell them you've never felt so alive. In short: make them feel uncomfortable and disarm them.  I believe Stephen Fry once remarked that, when he was threatened with physical violence by his school peers, he would exclaim, "No, don't! You'll give me an erection!". 

Please excuse me if I've sounded a tad flippant, or if I've offended anybody. I don't particularly advocate bullying, and I appreciate that there are exceptional cases in which a victim can do little and less to deter others, but in the vast majority of cases it's a matter of cool perspective and resisting the urge to believe that other people owe you any decencies. Own your life and write your own character. Being offended and abused are facts of life, as are the malignant deeds which every person performs - but defeat and bitterness are not.  

 

 

 

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I was bullied for 5 years straight for being ugly, 'weird' and welsh so...I don't really see what i could have done to stop it. I didn't always backdown either but then they just got a kick from getting a rise out of me. I  really don't think bullying is taken anywhere NEAR as seriously as it should. When you're kid you're still totally developing your personality and who you are as a person and when your anxious, frightened, confused and angry and upset that is having real genuine psychological damage on that child. I don't really feel like I have a victim  complex  or anything  but I do genuinely believe  being bullied  had a direct effect on my later mental health and depression. I dont hate the people now or blame them (i just dont care about them at all) but what they did did totally  mess with my head for a long long time

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all else fails you, I've always noted that the most effective people at overcoming adversity are those who embrace it. If somebody verbally abuses you, tell them nobody has ever understood you like they; if somebody pummels you, tell them you've never felt so alive. In short: make them feel uncomfortable and disarm them.  I believe Stephen Fry once remarked that, when he was threatened with physical violence by his school peers, he would exclaim, "No, don't! You'll give me an erection!".

I disagree with this. People quite often suggest this as some kind of solution, but it has never worked for me, and I've never seen it work for the various others I know of or have seen bullied. More often than not it only leads to further bullying comments for being some kind of "oddity" or "freak". People say if you don't react the bullies will get bored. I don't think that is always true - quite often bullies just get a kick out of being mean, or in some cases have a personal grudge against their victims (one bully in particular that I recall had once been a close friend, and for reasons that to this day I haven't worked out, stopped being friends with me over the course of the summer holidays and became my "chief tormentor"). Not reacting doesn't stop them if this is the case. 

Quote

Being offended and abused are facts of life, as are the malignant deeds which every person performs - but defeat and bitterness are not.  

I also disagree with this and I know you said you don't want to sound flippant or anything, but this really does sound like victim blaming to me. People can only take so much. Being name called and belittled and shamed and humiliated every day for months, even years on end, is enough to break anyone down. It's all very well "writing your own character" and owning your life, but in the face of such constant belittlement I don't think that is feasible at all. And I also don't think it's a fact of life. If you experienced this sort of thing in the workplace, there are official channels to follow to resolve it. You aren't expected to deal with that kind of behaviour as an adult, so why should you have to deal with it as a child/teen, when you are still coming to terms with who you are, going through lots of changes, and are all around more vulnerable?

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Totally agree Helena. Children are children ...they're still not done developing and to expect them to be as together, able to handle their own shit and mature as adults is quite frankly...absolutely ridiculous...

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I mean...to be frank im 22 and I am still "writing my own character" how on earth do you expect a terrified, angry, nervous, confused 13 year old to be mentally capable enough to handle that shit and not let it effect them? Im sorry but if you're physically weak, small, ugly, weird or unlikable in school nothing you do is going to stop bullies targeting you if they've started already...people talk about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and dealing with it when it comes to bullying but kids do NOT have the maturity or life experience to view the world in that way...a 14 year old is not going to have the same philosophy and outlook on life as me now just like im not going to have the same philosophy or outlook on life as a 55 year old because they have more life experience and maturity than I do...so why uphold a child to be as mentally strong as an adult...its so unfair ...

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