Bullying at school is the ultimate fear of parents when they drop their children off in the schoolyard. This scourge must indeed be taken seriously as our children suffer tremendously and bullying today can affect our children well into adulthood.
However, harassment is NOT a fatality and suffering it one day does not mean suffering it always. Adults have yet to fully understand the mechanisms to be able to support young people as effectively as possible.
Focus on the bullied:
Usually the adult focuses on the bully. Everything is done to make him stop what he is doing. Often without success. Human nature tends to persevere harder and harder on the path we’re on, thinking we’re not doing enough, hence more awareness, more reconciliation sessions, more interventions, and so on. The result is often – paradoxically – that the harassment gets worse (more vicious and more covert) and the victim is enshrouded even more in a deafening silence that leads one to believe that everything is settled. Up to the explosion… with sometimes dramatic consequences.
Emmanuelle Piquet has adapted the brief therapy approach (School of Palo Alto) to the specific context of school bullying for 10 years. She examined the relationships and interactions that exist between the molester (and his gang), the victimized, the witnesses and the adults. She also understood the meaning of the unwritten playground code that says:
- Any relationship problem between children will be solved between children.
- Anyone who breaks this rule will lose a lot of popularity.
When the adult suddenly intervenes in the bullying situation, especially at the end of elementary school and middle school, he involuntarily reinforces the position of the bully (he is good at making adults take care of his little person, a guarantee of popularity among his peers) and he weakens – involuntarily again – the position of the oppressed (“who cannot defend himself alone”).
Brief therapists from Emmanuelle Piquet’s “Chagrin Scolaire” team are working to better equip the bullied youth to recognize the vicious circle they are trying to break out of and change their interactions with it so that the bullying stops. And if she works more with the bully, it’s not because he should change him (he’s perfect the way he is, whatever the bully and his gang think) but mostly for a pragmatic reason: it’s him who consulted (where the harasser does not consult). ) because he has the greatest interest in the situation changing.
In advance and before dramatic situations arise that require the intervention of professionals, parents have means to help their children in case of harassment.
If parents understood the mechanics of what is happening on the playground, far from the eyes of the teachers, no matter how experienced, they would be able to support young people better and they would also see that some of their interventions are very effective and others against serve their children.
The key to helping bullied children
The main principles are in the acronym ” AUTHORIZE which the English use exactly to express how they can help our children take charge of their lives.
– E for emotions : Welcoming our child’s feelings is essential and not easy at all!! Telling him to get revenge or to pretend to ignore it is not listening! It is very beneficial for our children to practice active listening, with our ears, our eyes, our posture and our hearts.
– M for moderate our own emotions, which are nevertheless perfectly legitimate because we, the parents, are angry at the molester and sometimes also at his parents or the school “not doing their job”. We risk burdening our children with our own whims. It is better to seek an attentive ear where we can pour out our anger and disgust (friends, our partner, a therapist) so that our children can in turn listen to our kind and attentive ears with their anger, their fear, their sadness. Being able to relieve them of these burdens in a benevolent and loving environment helps give them strength.
– P for low profile : We don’t know much about what our child is going through, so let’s not be ‘knowledgeable’ and P stands for positioning. Our place is next to our child and not “between” the bullied child and their world.
– O primary goal : We must focus on the sufferer because he still has little energy to act, which we will mobilize appropriately, while the harasser is only too happy to continue riding the wave of his popularity. He, too, is caught in a vicious circle, but with no motivation to get out of it, just like the members of his gang.
– W for «What else? By this I mean the “seeker’s attitude” of the parents, who help their child to find clues themselves. And the child needs its parents as guides or educators. So no answer: “It’s your problem, manage! nor urge him to denounce the molester because it would put him in conflict with the code of the playground and he already knows that he will pay big bucks to be “a snitch”.
– E for expression : It is important for the young person to talk to and trust an adult, be it a parent or other trusted person. It’s about his mental health, sometimes his physical too! It is because of that IMPERATIVE to tell him that we will not do anything without his consent. It’s even more important to hold on to it, especially when our own world crumbles when we hear what our child is going through. From there we can seek WITH HIM and THROUGH HIM how to get out.
– R for relax about the friendships and social skills of our children! Friendship is a matter of feeling and not of reason, otherwise we add another accent to it that weakens it precisely in their social relationships.
Done well, this approach is win-win
The afflicted young person acquires new skills that will serve him throughout his life. He will gain respect and restore his confidence.
It is an advantage for the harasser that he is not kept in an illusion of omnipotence and experiences the negative consequences of his aggressive attitude. This is more effective than sanctions, which are sometimes necessary. In addition, he will have the opportunity to discover, with his much appreciated innate qualities such as leader of men, mouth, superiority, uniting, that instead of being a gang leader, he can be… a leader!
NOTE: Of course, in the context of this article, not all aspects of such a serious problem as school bullying can be addressed (the gang, the witnesses, the standard profiles or not, what about the sanctions against the bully, the notion of popularity). It also examines what schools can do to create an anti-harassment climate.