Dealing with Bullying in School Age Children: Verbal Attacks

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The great majority of bullying in school age children is name-calling, and almost all physical aggression begins with insults.

A classic way of handling this is as below.

Child: Johnny called me a x@z#$%*!

Adult (sounding concerned): Do you believe it?

Child: No!

Adult: Good! I don’t either!

Handling the situation in this method defuses the hurt that the victim has suffered allowing the child to shrug off the insults without letting it bother him.

If the insult is about something true, like having freckles. The best way to handle it is to help the child look at the situation logically. Here is an example.

Child: Johnny called me a freckle-face.

Adult (sounding concerned): Do you believe it?

Child: Yes!

Adult: So what’s the problem?

Child: Tell him not to say it!

Adult: When Johnny calls you names, do you get mad?

Child: Yes.

Adult: And when you get mad, does he have fun?

Child: Yes.

Adult: Do you want him to have fun when he calls you names?

Child: No.

Adult: If he calls you names and you don’t care, will it be fun for him?

Child: No.

Adult: That’s right! It’s only fun for him if you get upset. That’s the real reason he’s doing it. So let him call you names all he wants. You’ll see that after a few days he gets bored and leaves you alone.

While our moral upbringing makes it hard for us to accept the idea that we shouldn’t punish the bully, our guiding principle of justice should be that “hurting people is not permitted”.

When a victim feels hurt by names, it is not really the bully who hurt him. It is the victim who hurt himself by choosing to let the name hurt him. Therefore, the best way to solve the problem of bullying in school age children is to help the child come to terms with the name calling.

From Professional Learning Board’s online continuing education course for teachers: Bullying: The Golden Rule Solution

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