For posts on bullying, visit The Learn to be Buddies Series Blog.
All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Avoiding a culture of bullying

Image from "Dave is Brave" Copyright Amanda Gray 2009

There are a number of things that we can do to prevent bullying. But in order to do this we need to understand what puts children at risk of bullying.

Difference or vulnerability can often increase the chance of a child being bullied. Whether they have a disability or not, a child who looks different, or doesn’t conform with the expectations or values of influential peers, or whose interests differ from those peers, is at risk of being bullied.

Carter and Spencer (2006) looked specifically at research about what increases the risk of a child with a disability being bullied. One study highlighted some key factors. It found that children with physical disabilities were more at risk of being bullied if:
- they received extra help at school
- they were alone on the playground
- they had less than two good friends

What does that tell us about preventing bullying?

One of the things it tells us is that it all begins with our attitudes. As adults – parents and teachers – we need to think about how we react to people who are somehow different. Do we respond fearfully? Do we exclude or avoid adults or children in the community whose appearance or behaviour is different to what we expect? Do we exclude people from our schools, classrooms, activities or homes based on difference? Or do we try to understand them and work with their strengths?

Because ultimately our attitudes will build the culture of our homes, schools and classrooms. If we respect and value the contributions of all people, if we look for their strengths and build relationships with them, it will flow into the culture that is created in our homes, communities and schools.
Influenctial rules to create a respectful home, school or community culture
There are many ways of influencing the culture of our homes and schools, but in this post I want to talk about rules. Rules or a code of conduct are required in schools (as mentioned in the first post this month). But there are certain things we need to do to make rules work.

Rules that work

If you say, “Don’t say nasty things!” you may yourself entabled in an argument about what is nasty. An argument that may end with the statement that "you can't tell me what to do!!!".

But let’s say you sat down with your children or students and discussed the issue. For example, you notice that there is a bit of teasing going on. Ask them if they have ever been teased, how that made them feel. Then get them to come up with some rules, or a set of rights and responsibilities. This will give them a sense of ownership of the rules, and will deflate their arguments against the rule because they came up with the rule themselves.

But avoid “Don’t” rules. As soon as a child (or an adult, for that matter) hears the word don’t, there is a great temptation to “do”.

For children who struggle with understanding abstract ideas, empathy, or have language or concentration difficulties, it is also important that your rules clarify exactly what is expected of them.
So instead of a rule that says, “Don’t be nasty” you could end up with rules such as:
- “Say kind things”
- “Treat others like you would want to be treated”
If you show children respect, they are more likely to respect others.

You should also remember that more rules you have, the less likely you will enforce them all. Keeping to a maximum of 5 rules is usually the best approach. Because rules are only useful if you consistently reinforce them. For example, you can remind children of the rule when they are breaking it to help them get back on track. Or you could praise those who are following the rule by saying something like, "That was a kind thing to say! Thank you!".

When you first introduce the rule, you should also have a system of rewards or consequences. The children should come up with these as well - though be careful because children can be harsh when coming up with consequences.

Make sure the consequences fit the action. For example, time out is not going to be an appropriate consequence for teasing or bullying on its own. Instead, the consequence should include apology and reparation of the relationship with the child who was bullied.
Do not tolerate bullying, but you should also make sure that the consequence deals with the underlying reasons behind the behaviour.

I might leave it there (it is getting late)…. Next time I will talk a bit more about how we can protect our children and students from bullying by expanding on the idea of a circle of care.

Carter, B.B, Spencer, V.G. (2006). The Fear Factor: Bullying and Students with Disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 21(1), p11-24.
For more information about designing rules that work and a culture of respect, you might want to visit:


Emily Crane June 17, 2009 at 3:20 AM  

I work at SchoolTipline, which provides communication tools for schools so students can annonymously let school officials know if bullying or problems are occurring.

I love how you said that our attitudes will build the culture of our homes, schools and classrooms. There are so many things we can do to prevent bullying before it becomes an issue!

When you get a chance you should check out our site and blog!

About This Blog

You are welcome to browse as you like... but please remember that everything here is copyrighted. To receive printable copies of articles that you can hand out to others, subscribe to the Learn to be Buddies newsletter at

Copyright Amanda Gray 2009-11

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP