Monday, July 19, 2010

Bullying Perspectives

My students were having small group discussions when out of know where two boys started punching each other. They would take turns slugging each other in the shoulder in some kind of macho domination game.

I called them over to talk with them about what they were doing. Because I don't believe in rewards or punishment, I have to start off all of these kinds of conversations by asking why they were doing what they were doing.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Boys, why are you hitting each other?

Them: We don't know. But we are friends. We don't mind. Really.

Me: Hmm. I've asked you before to not hit each other or be violent towards each other, and you said you would refrain from hitting each other.

Them: Yeah, but we are friends. We really don't mind.

Me: When I was a boy your age, I remembered playing these games. I would get hit and I would hit back. But I can distinctly remember wishing the hitting would stop because deep down it really hurt. But I can also remember not knowing how to end the game without coming across as a sissy. Even if one of you felt like I did, would you say anything?

Them: Probably not.

Me: You might be thinking to yourself right now that you are in fact, deep down, okay with the hitting. Maybe you are the one that is okay with this. But if you are the one that is okay with it, does that mean the other guy is the one who is not.

Them: Yeah but how will we ever really know?

Me: Maybe you'll never really know, so I have to ask you, are you willing to take the chance of making your friend feel this way.

Them: We never thought of it that way.

Do they still hit each other? Yes, occasionally they still throw the odd punch, but it's not very often. Not nearly as often as they used to.

They are learning.


  1. I totally agree with this approach. Talk through it. Learn from it. Grow. But don't bust out the detention slips and the schoolwide dicipline plan. Don't send them to solitary confinement (aka "time out.")

  2. ahh.... Love and Logic. If you haven't tried it before check out there website: I use Love and Logic all the time in my classroom because there is always a need behind the deed and talking it through solves so many more things than sending the kid to the principals office and never finding out why they did it.

  3. Kendra,
    L&L mentions by the way problem solving but the main trust to use Alfie Kohn's term control by seduction , perfunctory empathy and love so the consequences you impose will be more acceptable to kids. What you describe - meeting kids unmet needs and collaborative problem solving fits in more with Alfie kohn's - Love and reason and Ross Greene's CPS approach.

    John - why not bust out the school's discipline plan by bringing everyone on board to solving problems in a collaborative way. I appreciate it is a process that both kids and teachers nned to learn and trust.

    Joe - thanks for sharing your thinking and dialog questions.

    Something similar - some kids in the class of a friend of mine's kid have a plan that each kid should be called by a nick name. Some of the names were pretty offensive. One kid reported this to the teacher who said it was unacceptable and hurtful. The kid owned up that he told the teacher and was willing to talk about it. The kid whose plan was derailed tried to isolate the kid who reported the plan.

    Imho the teacher should have continued to be involed in how the incident was working itself out , dealing with all parties , also the injured pride of the instigator of the plan.

    When the goal is creating a caring community your involvement does not cease


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