A 2014 study by the University of Texas at Arlington showed students who attend schools with anti-bullying programs are “more likely to be bullied than students who attend schools without such programs”!
FACT: BULLYING IS A BIG PROBLEM IN SCHOOLS AND IN LIFE.
FACT: GOVERNMENT-MANDATED ANTI-BULLYING POLICIES DO NOT WORK.
In the upcoming (Pesach) N’shei Chabad Newsletter, Izzy Kalman shares his experience and insights on typical anti-bullying programs based on his work as a nationally certified school psychologist.
Kalman notes that yeshivos have embraced anti-bullying psychology which has become a popular social movement, and yet, “the harder schools try to make bullying stop, the worse it is likely to become.”
Kalman points out that the academic bullying experts offer the same ineffective interventions parents try at home like :
* telling kids to be nice to each other
* saying that bullying causes everlasting harm
* encouraging kids to report to the authorities when another child is mean
* investigating every complaint
* administering consequences such as suspending privileges or expelling the bully.
Just as these steps fail to stop sibling rivalry at home, they don’t thwart bullying at school either, where the teacher is even more outnumbered. In fact, teaching kids to be nice to each other and that being mean causes permanent harm actually establishes an unhealthy cycle that perpetuates negative behavior. Involving an adult also can backfire, as once the victim “snitches,” the bully has a genuine reason to dislike his target.
But does Kalman’s approach work any better?
Kalman says his methods are not new. “Torah has been teaching us all along to listen to what others are saying, and not dissolve into anger even when we are insulted,” he explains.
Instead of reacting with anger to an insult, Kalman advises kids (and adults) to react “like a friend, because we want to be treated like a friend.” This is the secret of Kalman’s method; he helps kids to overcome our biological programming of reciprocity. Trying Kalman’s responses in reaction to a mean comment is difficult at first but it almost always deflates the bully approach, ending the cycle of hurt.
All this sounded so nice in theory. But I’m not sure I’d have believed this low-key-sounding method could be effective. That is, until I attended a Kalman-based workshop at a recent Shabbaton I went to.
I witnessed two volunteers role-playing Kalman’s technique: one participant insulted the other, demanding a refund and complaining about the unsatisfactory service he had gotten. In one scenario the recipient of the insults reacted with anger. This egged on the aggressor, and the conflict escalated. In the next scenario, the victim didn’t fight back, but rather verbally mirrored the accusations, deflating the energy from the argument, and calming down the angry encounter.
Next, I volunteered to participate. I could picture the scene of my own children battling over nothing, each one continuing the campaign of anger. Maybe this could help, I thought, as I took my place at the front of the room.
I cringed as my fellow volunteer told me that she had talked it over with the group, and everyone felt I just didn’t fit in, so I was no longer welcome to be part of the group. I mean, I’m a married mother heading into middle age, why should I care? But I felt the sting. At first, the script told me to argue back. So I did. As my bully and I kept defending our position, I felt the tension in my shoulders, even though we were only pretending. And then we tried Kalman’s idea of listening and reflecting back the painful comments.
She immediately lost her fire. Her voice gradually lowered and soon became sympathetic rather than moving toward hysteria as it had earlier.
Soon she quieted down, and became thoughtful. Then she said, “It’s not me, you know, it’s the others, they asked me to tell you.” Soon the argument ended with her offer of peace, and my continued membership in the group.
I had agreed to leave the group. Yet I felt empowered. I felt strong, because my reactions had come from a place of strength.
To see an example acted out by Izzy Kalman, go to www.nsheichabadnewsletter.com and click on “Victim Proof School for Kids.”
Kalman says, “Bullying goes on throughout life, and the sooner people learn to respond effectively, the better the rest of their lives will be.” As much as I wish to be able to protect my kids from harm’s way, Kalman points out, “You can’t follow them around their whole lives punishing anyone who insults them, can you?”
To learn more about Kalman’s empowering approach, subscribe to the N’shei Chabad Newsletter now in time to receive the Pesach issue in the mail, the one with the three birds on a branch on the cover, by visiting www.nsheichabadnewsletter.com.
Izzy Kalman will be in the U.S. in October of 2015.