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A Teacher’s Perspective: Bullying Interview Series (Part 2)

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Kids having a quarrel and fight - tough parenthood conceptTugba: Hello Penny, thank you again for agreeing to join us for our second interview in our bullying series. I’m really glad to announce to everyone and raise awareness that October is Bullying Awareness Month. So, Penny, to get started, let’s recall our last interview where we spoke about bullying being a serious concern facing parents and teachers in today’s world. You mentioned some strategies to help prevent bullying and one of them was about the development of empathy. Can you tell me more about how teachers and parents can help develop empathy?
Penny: Often children bully because they don’t understand the effect that their behaviors have on other people. They feel the need to develop their self-esteem by putting other students down. Perhaps they exhibit such behaviors because this is what they heard at home. Maybe their parents put down and/or complained about other people and/or their parents criticized particular characteristics of other people. Maybe their parents also put them down (put the child down). Sometimes, children constantly hear their parents telling them what they did wrong all the time, and don’t hear their parents telling them what they did positively.


small-lgimage_595_classpers0913Tugba: So what I’m hearing is that one rule that parents can have in improving the situation is to be very aware and mindful of the language they are using in front of children. The language parents use about other groups, maybe when speaking of people from different cultural backgrounds as well as when speaking to the children themselves, in a way that might impact the child’s self-esteem. Parents may need to be aware of the social learning taking place that may be impacting the way children and parents relate to each other.
Penny: Yes, that is correct. Now one of the things teachers can do is to also be aware of their language with their students. Perhaps instead of saying “you got that wrong” they can emphasize the positive things the student did while explaining that “this part isn’t right yet”. I had a student that was convinced she was absolutely terrible at math and would never learn to do math. Well I worked with her in saying, “These are the things you know already, and these are the areas we are working on, our problem is just that we haven’t found a way that works yet.” You need to express to the kids that “we will keep trying and we will get there, we just need to find different ways that makes sense to you”. It really helps when the student can understand that the goal for both teacher and student is to find the way that the student learns best as opposed to the teacher saying this is how I teach it and you have to learn it this way.


defiant-child-power-strugglesTugba: So Penny, your last comment leads me to our next conversation. You mentioned that the language teachers and parents might use with children may have an effect on children’s self-esteem. What I’m curious about is that if the language used is very critical and impacts the child’s self-esteem, would a child with low self-esteem after being criticized be more likely to bully?
Penny: Yes! I think often children who bully do not have good self-esteem.





small-could-my-child-be-a-bullyTugba: Also, on the other hand, is it possible that the positive language parents and teachers might use in focusing on building a child’s self-esteem can help prevent or minimize bullying behavior?
Penny: Yes, that is also true. It is very important to be mindful and use positive language.




small-bullying-lawsuitTugba: Can you generally give us a sense of how self-esteem might relate to bullying?
Penny: I think often children who bully do not have good self-esteem. Now some of them, of course, do it because of peer pressure as their friends are bullying other students then they do it too. But many students are bullies because it makes them feel better. As if someone is lower on the totem pole than they are and they have to be better than someone else. Unfortunately, not only does this affect children but many adults also demonstrate the same behavior. They put down other adults because of the way they look, talk, think or any number of things. Even adults often feel that they have to be better than somebody, as opposed to recognizing that everyone has individual differences and every human being has inherent worth and dignity.
Tugba: Thank you Penny for those insights today. I look forward to speaking to you again soon to discuss more about positive parenting strategies in relationship to bullying.
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