February 26, 2014 11:37 am

How can schools help bullies change their behaviour?

As part of Global News’ special series on how Montreal-area schools are helping students to deal with bullying, Global News is talking with teachers, students, families and experts to find out more about the issues.

PIERREFONDS – Students at Greendale Elementary School have discovered that the anti-bullying program called WITS is really helping to deal with being bullied – but there is another side to the story: that of the bully.

Story continues below

READ MOREGreenfield Elementary school students using their WITS to beat bullying

Many are wondering whether schools should also focus on trying to help the bully, but how can we intervene and help change behaviour?

At a recent symposium on violence and intimidation in our schools, psychologist Eva de Gosztonyi from the Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Management talked to teachers and school administrators about bullies, their making and their unmaking.

She argued that bullies are vulnerable and need our help.

“The bullies themselves are actually having quite a difficult time,” de Gosztonyi told Global News.

“If we look at the research, we find that children who get involved in bullying behaviour actually have a very difficult time in life.”

POLLHave you ever been bullied in school?

De Gosztonyi said that she believes that both students who are bullying and being bullied need would be better off if bullies were able to reconnect with their emotions and their empathy.

“We owe it to them . . . to intervene in a way that helps them to recover and regain some of the feelings that they have for other people.”

Her advice for teachers, parents ands society as a whole is to start with our own sense of empathy.

“We need to understand that they are actually protecting themselves,” she said.

“For some reason, because of the circumstances in their life, they have decided that other people can’t keep them safe, so they have to keep themselves safe,” she said.

Children may become more bossy as a result, but more importantly, they lose their feelings for other people.

“They’ve been hurt, but because of the amount they’ve been hurt, they lose their ability to notice when other people are being hurt.”

De Gosztonyi said that it is the responsibility of adults to help all vulnerable children and provide safe places for them to let down their guard and open up to those around them.

“But that isn’t through teaching that they learn that, it’s actually through safe relationships with caring adults.”

Although any trusting adult in their life could take on this role, she recommends that councillors or helpers in the school that the child could be assigned to if they need someone to talk to.

De Gosztonyi is a firm believer in helping children reach their full potential.

“Because these children tend to be a bit bossy and like to be in charge, we try to find natural ways for them to use that.”

She suggests trying to pair these students with a kindergarten teacher or in the school daycare to help with the younger children.

“Then they build a natural relationship with another adult, who sees them as a caring person and not as a child who hurts others.”

How do you find that bullying is dealt with in schools? Share your stories, suggestions and comments in the comments below.

© Shaw Media, 2014

Report an error