6 Effective Ways to Counteract Bullying In Schools

Children are innocent. But sometimes they act with a surprising level of cruelty. The best example of this is bullying in schools. Though bullying may be considered as a part and parcel of students’ lives, it cannot be taken lightly given the physical and mental harassment involved that may lead to loss of confidence and self-respect for life or even suicides. Schools should seriously address the bullying problem. Here are some suggestions.

1. Defining Bullying Clearly

Bullying in schools takes place at all grade levels. First off, bullying should be clearly defined commonly for all schools so that some action can be taken. According to CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute), bullying is defined as intentionally aggressive behaviour that consists of an imbalance of strength and power. It may be shown through verbal/nonverbal, physical and/or interpersonal means. Though it’s a repeated offense, teachers may notice it for the first time; but whenever they notice it, it’s very important for them to talk to the bullied student about what happened exactly and whether it has happened even in the past.

School staff must be able to differentiate between bullying and teasing. Sweeting and West observe that teasing happens more often than bullying since it’s done to provoke or irritate the other person with continued distractions or other irritations. On the other hand, bullying is an imbalance of power because the victims are unable to defend themselves. Bullying takes place in various forms including teasing, threats, excluding, name calling, hitting, preventing the victims from doing what they want or going where they want, and all types of physical violence. The seriousness of bullying may vary from case to case.

Recently with the growing use of social media among students, school staff should know the fact that the problem of cyberbullying is growing. Cyberbullying is defined as “using any electronic device to intimidate, harass or bully another person”. This involves emails and texts, and posts and videos on social media websites. Schools should make sure that the efforts for bullying prevention are intensified when it’s about cyberbullying. All school staff should be given training on what bullying is, what the rules and policies of the school are and how to impose the rules.


2. Don’t Be Judgemental

It’s important not to be judgemental while considering a student’s behaviour. When a child is seen to be bullying or bullied, it’s important to first find out what happened exactly. Placing a judgement on that child can create problems in her/his future. It’s important that the children involved in an incident belong to different situations. There may be a reason behind the behaviour of a child who seems to be bullying. To solve the problem, it’s important to involve her/him and let her/him know how the bullied student will be affected.

It’s also important to make sure that the bullying students know what is wrong in their behaviour, why it’s wrong and what its consequences are. If the behaviour is continued, it’s necessary to involve the parents.

Bullying in schools

3. Setting Rules and Expectations that are Clear and Enforceable

For younger kids, there should be simple rules. When they become older, rules should be shaped so as to meet their level of maturity. Scheuermann and Hall have suggested how to write rules within a PBIS (Positive Interventions and Support) framework. They suggest that the staff must:

  • Keep the number of rules to the least
  • Set rules in positive terms
  • Ensure rules are age appropriate
  • State rules encompassing multiple circumstances
  • Teach the rules to students
  • Have consistency in applying the rules
  • Set an example for rule-obeying behaviour

These guidelines can help teachers manage the classroom well and minimise bullying problems.

The consequences of breaking the rules should also be clearly stated.

Rules should enforce responsibility, respect and safety. These important components should be incorporated in the rules and the rules should be applied in every situation to everyone every day. Keep in mind that rules should exist for the safety of students and staff.

Setting Rules

4. Watch Out for Warning Signs

Warning signs can be seen when bullying in schools occurs. When a student is being bullied, various signs can be seen in her attitude. She may have unexplainable injuries, changes in eating habits, frequent stomachaches or headaches, loss of interest in school and friends, declining grades, difficulty in sleeping, reduced self-esteem, lost or destroyed personal belongings and so on. The child may avoid social situations and also may talk of harming himself.

Similarly, the child that bullies others also shows certain signs. He may get engaged into a lot of fights, have friends that bully others, get more and more aggressive, worry about his reputation and popularity, refuse to take responsibility of his actions, blame others for his problems, and so on.

To understand exactly what’s going on, contacting and working with the child’s parents can be of a lot of help.

5. Encourage Positive Behaviour

When a student is caught doing something bad, it’s pointed out. But if s/he is found doing something good, people don’t take the trouble to point it out because good behaviour is expected. Here lies a problem. If an otherwise troublesome child is found doing something good, the situation is positive and supportive. Pointing out the good behaviour appreciates and reinforces it. It increases the chances for the student to engage into good behaviour again.

Experts recommend to try supporting good behaviour four to five times for every one condemnation for bad behaviour. Feedback should be one-to-one and never reprimand publically. Students should be helped to correct their behaviours rather than punished. They should be helped understand that breaking the rules can lead to serious consequences. These suggestions can help lessening bullying behaviours by making students accepting more of positive and less of negative behaviours.

Encourage Positive Behaviour

6. Keep an Eye on Hot Spots

There are certain spots where bullying takes place the most. These spots are mostly places where adults are not present. Examples are bathrooms, hallways, busses and playgrounds. When there is an adult in such places, there are fewer chances of bullying behaviour and children feel safer. Therefore it’s essential for adults to be watchful and pay full attention when multiple children are present at a certain place.

Keep an Eye on Hot Spots

Bullying in schools should be eliminated and whatever efforts are needed for it should be taken. That will make every child feel safe, comfortable and happy, and use her/his competence to the fullest so as to make the future world the best place to live in.