Dealing with bullying at school
Child aggression and peer abuse present themselves in different ways in different institutions and are a growing challenge for teachers, students, parents and professionals working in the school environment. Without appropriate tools, tensions increase and helplessness can turn into aggression. The consequences are still being felt decades later.
Conflicts at school and nursery
Conflict is a natural part of human behaviour. The problem is not the existence of conflicts, but the lack of tools to manage them well. The effectiveness of conflict management determines the atmosphere in the school and the effectiveness of teaching. At the heart of the restorative approach is the idea that conflict is actually an opportunity for renewal, for restoring the balance that has been upset. Conflict, therefore, if managed well, can actually be used to the benefit of our relationships.
What happens to the children if we don't intervene?
"They need to learn to manage conflict" - we often hear adults say when talking about children. "You be the smart one", "play nice", "if you behave like that you won't have any friends", "it's not nice to tell".
The question is what they learn and from whom. Are there good constructive communication patterns that we as educators can pass on to children? Can they rely on us adults? Do they dare to ask for help?
The earlier we start to professionally engage with children's communities, the more likely we are to avoid serious negative consequences such as school drop-outs and loss of social relationships, persistent anxiety and possible self-harm.
Bullying and ostracism in kindergarten, school
Name-calling, bullying, bad language and the breaking of boundaries set by adults are present in every kindergarten and school and cause difficulties. To handle these situations well, we need to understand what is behind them.
Aggression in nursery and school
Aggression, when viewed in a social context, is intentional behaviour aimed at hurting the other person, which the victim wants to avoid. It can be directed at the person, objects, relationships of the other person, it can be done in word or deed. Aggression often stems from frustration at not being able to find a solution with the existing toolkit, not having a tool or pattern for children to try and practice with the right support. It is therefore understandable that, without appropriate tools and models, conflicts can escalate into aggression, but we must do something about it. Constructive communication and conflict management methods that restore relationships can be learned! We adults are the main role models for children. Children do not need punishment, they need connection, support and communication tools. The tools of mediation and restorative practices provide up-to-date answers and practical help for teachers and children alike.
Harassment? Abuse? Bullying?
There is no uniform usage in Hungary today, all three words refer to the same phenomenon. Abuse/bullying is an act of aggression in a community that:
- an imbalance of power between the perpetrator(s) and the victim(s),
- is characterised by a desire to shame and intimidate the other,
- is to gain power in the community.
Bullying is a communal phenomenon, we must not only pay attention to the perpetrators and victims, but also understand the phenomenon itself, because without this, the situation can re-create itself, even if the victim or the perpetrator no longer attends our kindergarten or school.
To intervene effectively, we need to work with the whole community where the abuse is taking place, to understand the power relations and the actors. The actors in a bullying story are the perpetrator(s), the victim(s) and the bystanders, who are either pro-victim or pro-perpetrator, or neutral to the situation.
We need to know that it is often the bystanders who can make the biggest difference, and we need to know how to empower them to dare to intervene or ask for help. Three-day conflict and aggression management trainingor we can step in as an external expert and stop the process.
"The only way to intervene productively is for the teacher to be persistent and understanding of the bullying" (Buda & Friday, 2010)