Gabriella van Rij, international activist and author of With All My Might and I Can Find My Might, joined us to discuss her three-step program that focuses on helping the victims of bullying, as well as the actual bullies, in order to put an end to the epidemic in schools across America.
Gabriella's 3-Step Program to Halt Bullying:
- Become an Active Witness: "Children normally do not report incidents of bullying because they are paralyzed by humiliation and fear of retaliation if they snitch," says Gabriella. "In my talks to classrooms, I urge both students and teachers to become 'active witnesses,' meaning that if they see something hurtful occur, they must immediately get involved and report it. Don't leave it up to someone else to report and fix." Parents and educators must also become actively involved and work together, as much too often they blame each other for inaction and shirk responsibility in addressing the bullying issue.
- Learn the Signs: How do you know whether a child is being bullied? How do you know if a child is bullying others? "Although some find it hard to believe, the bully and the victim are mirror images of one another, who share the same fears and emotional insecurities," says Gabriella. To recognize a child who bullies others, look out for occurrences of 'acting out' with aggressive behavior or comments, especially in public places or in the presence of other children. The bully's behavior is based on fear and very low self-esteem. Every bully Gabriella's interviewed acknowledged a major dysfunctional situation in their home. Gabriella says that a victim of bullying shares the same fear but acts out differently. In most cases, the victim has an unmistakably timid or frightened appearance, exhibits extreme anxiousness when going to school, seeks isolation, and often demonstrates signs of regressive behavior. Based on Gabriella's research and experience, most victims also have dysfunctional families, as do bullies.
- Intervention: This step is where all parties (victim, bully, teacher, counselor) get together to end the denial and start talking about what's actually been happening. Questions are asked to get both the victim and the bully to reveal their true, innermost feelings about the situation. A typical question to start the intervention might be, "Can you tell me what's making you so sad?" Parents are not part of this process, as their presence would prevent the children from discussing any non-optimum situations at home which may be contributing to their behavior problems. At the end of the intervention, the children feel quite changed, as though an enormous weight has been lifted from their shoulders. "The thoughts and emotions of both victim and their abuser must be addressed to resolve the problem," says Gabriella. "That is a new twist that allows for a lasting resolution."
For more information, visit Gabriella's website.