Teaching Anti-Bullying to Children (diary entry)



My teacher consultation on Tuesday focused on aspects of bullying and how they related to a course my client is developing with me on children’s self-protection.


Topics included the following:


Peer Pressure

Peer pressure helps us understand the environment of most bullying amongst children and teenagers. We are specifically looking at the 7-11 age range in this instance and here many major developments occur with regards to how children socially interact. Being tribal by nature, humans will naturally group together, decide on where they feel they need stand in their social circle and can feel instinctive animosity to threats to their group or their position. Bullies within this dynamic typically campaign against an individual either in the group or outside it to assert their dominance. The motivations for this can be varied, but the most obvious ones are to feel better about their own insecurities by shifting them onto a target. A bully might have psychopathic, narcissistic or Machiavellian traits, meaning they are pretty much born with certain strong anti-social behaviours that have been triggered. These individuals can be particularly dangerous due to their lack of empathy and their belief in doing what is needed to achieve their own self-serving ends. Others might possess traits from the vulnerable Dark Triad – Vulnerable Narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorder and Vulnerable Psychopathy. These are conditions typically caused by environment and I think there is a good argument for many serious bullies to be sociopaths (vulnerable psychopaths). However, the majority will be a mixture of different drivers that are present within most individuals and this raises some very relevant points.

Peer pressure can lead otherwise rational people with an altruistic moral conscience to commit some of history’s most heinous acts. Children are shown a world of easy goods and evils which they cannot relate to and does not prepare them for dangerous influencers. Cognitive dissonance is experienced when these moral characters are suddenly pressured to join in with an anti-social activity they would normally judge to be wrong. Worse still, when they go against their conscience and agree to participate their self-justification will often drive them to exacerbate the crime in the extreme.


When it comes to developing willpower, self-discipline and motivation in students, I promote self-identification. If the student identifies themselves to be fighters, self-defender, martial artists or even exercisers they are more likely to make their training non-negotiable. Likewise, when an individual positively invests in an identity that is opposed to malicious harm they give themselves an automatic mandate to be proactive in not participating.

Principles and Concepts over Techniques

Codifying a system provides us with a strong framework to develop our learning. However, there is a problem when we are dealing with the uncertainty and numerous variables of real world self-protection. There are no easy solutions. However, training concepts and principles as part of a person’s regular behaviour goes a long way to create a good defence against bullies.

Tactics and Signs

Simple tactics for children to adopt include be wary of those who try draw their prey. Ignoring is usually the first anti-bullying policy. In best case situations, the bully doesn’t get the desired reaction off their target, gets bored and moves on. However, there is no easy to define time limit on when to stop ignoring. A bully might not get bored and might see the individual as weak. In institutions a common belief that a target is soft is their total non-reaction to a bully taking liberties. It is important to draw and a line and set boundaries. From here there are various options. Assertion – rather than aggression – is the next best policy when dealing with bullies. Standing up to a bully doesn’t mean getting into their competition but effectively telling the bully that you won’t tolerate their behaviour. From here we can look at loop-holing, defusing a situation, deflection and even empathy. Different types of bullying also might require specific tactics. For example, the broken record, now called “song stuck on repeat” or, as my client suggested, “The Gif” technique is a tactic whereby the same set non-compliant statement is made at the end of a response.

Again, Gavin De Becker’s PINS are important signs for students to recognise within the context of bullying. By seeing that an individual won’t take “no” for an answer they understand someone is trying to manipulate.

Relevant Links:

Anti-Bullying Week Blog Post

Convince a Little Man