BULLYING IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE CHILDREN DIRECTLY INVOLVED

A key tenet of the new community-based view of bullying is that bullying can never be explained in individual terms alone. It is not simply about dysfunctional children acting out and vulnerable individuals being targeted because of some aspect of their personality or physicality. As the Danish school bullying researcher, Rabøl Hansen, explains, to understand why bullying occurs, we need to look beyond the specific individuals involved and focus on the whole community as well. We need to explore what it is about the community’s shared norms and culture that has led to a perceived need among one or more children to push another child out. We need to ask ourselves why the child or children felt it necessary to act in the way they did.

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There are good examples of children who function well in a given community, such as a class, but then change to a different class and suddenly start to bully other children. In other words, these children are not bullies per se, but they react by bullying when the environment is dysfunctional. Likewise, a child who thrives in one community may be the victim of bullying in another.

It is also worth noting that children are biologically wired to want to please and be included, which is why they generally behave well when given the chance. And the responsibility for giving them that chance lies squarely with us adults. It is our job to foster the necessary positive relationships with and among the children in our care to help prevent bullying.