The best way to help bullied children is to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place. This requires attacking the problem across multiple fronts and isn’t always easy, but it can be done. In this chapter we’ll outline different ways to prevent bullying, from sim-ple steps parents can implement immediately to school-wide initiatives that will broadly tackle the problem.
Bullying prevention begins by recognizing that bullying is not inevitable
As Garbarino & deLara (2092, p. 59) correctly point out, “If the institution believes problems (like bullying, group exclusivity, intolerance, and feelings of powerlessness) are not prob-lems or are a part of existence,’ then it won’t do much to change things.” So the first step in the prevention of bullying is for parents, teach-ers, and other involved adults to recognize that such behavior is not inevitable. To help get this point across, here are a few facts to chew on:
Bullying prevention fact #1: In many places, bullying is much less of a problem
Prevalence rates for school bullying in some cultures around the world are as low as 1.9%. (Hansel et al., 2001) In the United States, they tend to be anywhere from 10-times to 20-times this rate. That’s a lot of room for improvement, and it shows that bullying is not inevitable and does not have to be a normal part of childhood. These statistics indicate that we could prevent up to 95% of the bullying that occurs simply by doing more of what these other communities are doing right. Bullying is not inevitable. It i s a product of the environment, something that emerges because we are failing our children in many ways.
Bullying prevention fact #2: Bullying prevention can work because kids want stability
As we’ll discuss in an upcoming section, teenagers actually say they want more supervision and stability in their schools. Even seemingly rebellious adolescents do not enjoy chaos, and much of the hostility we see in our schools is actually a re sponse to an unnaturally cutthroat and chaotic environment.
Bullying prevention fact #3: Bullying prevention can work because environments alter behavior
Teens are bound to be rebellious … they are going to raise hell for their parents and cause all sorts of problems, right? Wrong. Would it surprise you to learn that in fact the type of teen rebellion and conflict we’ve become so accustomed to in the West is altogether absent in many cultures around the world? It is. (Add ref) The reason is that our child-rearing practices tend to create divisions between generations while fighting kids every step along the way as they strive for independence. In cultures that don’t do this, adolescence is much less tumultuous, for both teens and their parents. This is but one example among many which illustrate how powerful environments are in altering our children’s experiences.
If something that seems so certain in life (like parent-child hardships during adolescence) can practically disappear when the environment is altered to create less conflict, how much more malleable are social problems such as bullying?
Bullying is an environmental problem: It thrives because the environment is conducive towards it. Even those kids who by nature have the strongest impulses to be mean or nasty can only thrive if their surroundings allow it. By making even subtle changes to this environment, you can alter the dynamics enough to prevent bullying. Make enough of these changes, and you will all but eliminate it.