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Changing Bullying Behaviour

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When bullying does occur in your classroom, there are a variety of strategies that should be included in your program, such as:

  1. Break the pattern.
  2. Have the child who bullies admit the behaviour, apologize and atone for the action.
  3. Help the child learn appropriate outlets for anger.
  4. Have Clear Expectations.
  5. Use a reinforcement schedule.
  6. Continue to engage in cooperative, nurturing games/activities.
  7. Continue to include activities/stories to build empathy in your curriculum.
  8. Increase self-esteem building activities.

Self-esteem activities are important because children who bully often have low self-esteem. Do self-esteem activities to build self-esteem in the child who bullies and at group time or using worksheets, do activities to emphasize the strengths of all the children (so the bully also learns to value peers).

Once again, these activities can be done in the large group and also, emphasized individually with the child who bullies. An adult must facilitate these activities:

  • Board games/lotto games to help a child build empathy
  • Books
  • Worksheets
  • Scripted Role Plays (can use puppets/the children themselves). Make sure the child who bullies plays the role of a victim to help develop empathic understanding

Make sure the child who bullies is involved in these activities. (Initially, the activities could be introduced at circle time or in large group activities with all the children and then, more of these activities could be used in a small group. The child who bullies is always part of the small group. An adult must always facilitate these activities.

As well as clear consequences for bullying behaviour, use a reinforcement chart to reward the child for appropriate behaviour with others. Initially, begin with a short time expectation to promote success. Make sure the reinforcer is highly rewarding for the child. A token economy could also be used.

Use social stories/visuals to help the child who bullies understand the appropriate expected behaviour and the consequences of their bullying behaviour. Whatever the consequences are for the child, be consistent.

Help the child learn to recognize signs of anger/agitation, which lead the child to bullying. Then, help the child find appropriate outlets for these emotional responses:

  • Use books/social stories to teach anger management
  • Use games: circle games that teach impulse control, body management skills and games that teach appropriate anger responses
  • Role play using puppets or the children themselves

The child who bullies must perform some act of kindness for the bullied child (with teacher direction and consent from the child bullied).

When possible, record incidents of the bullying behavior to look for a pattern, a particular situation and who the child targets. Break the generalized bullying pattern by creating a structured activity plan (in your head at least) for the child who bullies by giving the child a variety of helpful chores to do (e.g., help bring chairs, help set out activities, help set out snack, set the table, put out cots, wash tables, etc.) Praise the child for all successful activities.

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