Regenerative Livestyle Blog

Sharing my regeneration journey, enjoying living in harmony with nature

Building resilience beyond bullying

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I attended a very interesting meeting about bullying in Wanaka Primary School earlier this month. Not that I am worried that my kids are bullies or bullied. But just to know how I can, as a parent, prevent perhaps and help if it occurs. And it happens to be a much wider subject than it seems… These are my notes.

Build resilience in kids

Resilience is the capacity to cope with adversity. If children are strong inside, they will not remain affected. And they need to learn how to solve problems. As parents we can help by supporting our children’s self-esteem in general and by talking about the problems when they arise. We can help them say what they experienced, how they felt. Help them name these and going through solutions with them, so that they learn from what happened. And parents must address both bullies and bullied situations. We must tell kids to not go along bullies, to realise and take a stand.

Peer conflict versus bullying

The former is meanness, often one-off situations, with kids trying and not getting it right but soon realise and stop. It is quite normal even if it can still be very affecting. Kids may still need help to solve it, on both side of the conflict. When a kid says no one wants to play with him/her, is s/he bullied or is s/he the bully? We need to talk to find out and help find solutions.

Bullying is repeated, exerts an imbalance in power and the offender purposely wants to hurt and therefore will not stop. It can often escalate to violence or sex offense. For the victim, it MUST STOP. But so that it happens, victims MUST seek help, but unfortunately only 20% do. Specially when they get older. We, parents must keep the conversation open, not react. Do not threaten to confiscate the phone or computer access if they complain, or obviously they will not tell anymore. Instead, address the issue or seek help for it. For all cyberbullying issues, visit Netsafe.

Social relationships are acquired skills

We must tell our values, establish them, discuss them. And keep adapting with the children’s age. For example: No hurting –> Respect –> Welcoming…

At primary school, the first month is dedicated to establish rules and creating a safe classroom which is a requirement for good learning disposition. Children learn to talk and listen to each other, and they are taught the WITS strategy:

  • Walk away,
  • Ignore,
  • Tell someone,
  • Say what you want instead.

How to talk about an incident

Ask what happened? And listen to the several sides of the story. A good question is “If it has been filmed, what would I see on the video?”

School uses a restorative approach ( Or in New Zealand context, much more detailed ) that invites bullies to take responsibility and get help for it.

Through a framework of questions, bullies awareness is raised, they are invited to imagine how they could have behaved successfully, then they think about how to heal or repair, and what tools they need to manage this. This strategy is very successful and has a low recidivism rate.

It was emphasized that bullying issues are not only a school problem but a whole society problem and must be tackled by schools together with the parents and the whole community too.

Helping teenagers

The last intervenant of the evening was amazing in compassion and courage. She was dealing with repeating offenders who had therefore been thrown out of all educative systems and were on the jail doors. She did not mention it explicitly but I understood that these kids are mostly bullies who had not been helped on time, and at their age, it is called crime. Their life is a mess, a mixture of mental health, home stress, abuse, a vicious circle, often for a long time. They do not have the skills and do not cope so they use inappropriate strategies in life. They end up with no self-worth at all.

This woman’s job is to fix them! Here is how.

1- She helps them identify some goals. Whatever small goal will be a first step and she helps removing what is in the way of reaching that goal. When success is reached (however small), self-esteem starts to build-up, another goal is established and so on.

2- She believes in them until they believe in them themselves. She is motivated for them because they are not, she tells them so and accompany them all along until they can do it by themselves. She also find other people who will believe in them too.

3- She reduces all the stress possible. Their perception is their reality. She does not say “No. This is not a problem” or “Don’t worry” etc. Instead, she helps them go through the problem or deal with it, until they perceive it positively.

4- She keeps “her hand on the tiller” (I have learnt an expression that night 😉 ), build skills to achieve goals, keep believing, set higher expectations until they believe in themselves and become good persons…

She’s helped set up several centres to care for these teenagers and saves more and more of them. A mission of love!

It was not after all only about bullying, it was a parenting course refresher. Talk talk, support and help to find solutions, set high expectations and they will deliver.

Building skills for resilience helps all life…

Thank you Wendy and all the speakers for sharing your knowledge in a very meaningful way.

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