Discussion Questions: Chapter Six

Towards a Bully-Free Culture

“Bullying exists when an environment supports it. A culture is a collective agreement about what behaviors are accepted, expected, or considered normal…School, community, and family cultures overlap.” (p. 102)

This chapter helps parents understand how bullying prevention works in schools, where their children spend their days. It identifies how different bullying programs operate within “the three tiers of prevention” and explores anti-bullying policies. Finally, it shows how building a culture of respect is the solution.

“There are three tiers to prevention that, when understood by families and society, can save a lot of  ‘tears’ down the road.” (p. 102) The primary prevention examples given in this book are OBPP, Harlem Children’s Zone’s Baby College, Tribes, Safe & Caring Schools, Squash Circles, Roots of Empathy, Reading Buddies, school clubs and enrichment, and community programs like Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Secondary prevention examples are Bully Guards, Safe School Ambassadors, Trauma-Sensitive Schools, and the tertiary example is Restorative Justice. (See more resources on our School Programs page.)

Q: Do you now understand the difference between the three tiers? Have you seen any of these programs in action? Have you seen others? What about programs like Squash Circles that were made up by teachers? Give examples of the three tiers of prevention in your community or school culture. Perhaps attention to one or more tiers is missing. This identifies where anti-bullying work needs to be done. You can approach school staff using this language and ideas from these programs.

“Dan Olweus…his work has played a key role in the mindshift occurring in many countries—from seeing bullying as a natural part of school life to seeing it as a solvable social issue.” (p. 104)

Q: Have you seen this shift occurring as you have grown up? Where is your school, family, or community in this process? Is bullying still seen as ‘natural?’

 

“If your school does have an bullying policy, read it and…find out if it is effective.”  “The ideal school is a place where all teachers see all students as ‘my students.'” (p. 114) and “Unbalanced power relationships are the cornerstone of bullying.” (115)

Q: How do teachers interact with students, and with each other, at your school? Do you know who the counselors are in your child’s school? Have you talked to teachers or the principal about your school’s anti-bullying strategies? Is the staff unified on procedures? Do adults use good manners with each other? Are there expectations of respect? Is there a culture of respect?

“Children who learn assertiveness skills in elementary school enter middle school less likely to be bullies, victims, or passive bystanders.” 

Q: What did you think about the misconceptions of respect? Did they surprise/inspire you?

And finally, 

Q: What sentence, paragraph, or idea popped out at you, or stuck with you after reading?

Reply in the Comments, below!

Looking for resource links? Click here.

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Cosmic Citizen Radio on The Big Picture of Bullying

Please listen to this wonderful two-hour interview with Kristen Caven about bullying from a spiritual perspective. Paula Thompson, Andre Radatus, and Christilyn Biek-Larson, the hosts of Cosmic Citizen Radio provide space and time for a wide-ranging conversation about every angle of this social problem.

It is a two-hour interview, but if you would like to drop in and listen for a few minutes, here is a guide to the key moments:

  • 5:30 Interview begins
  • 6:45 Kristen explains why bullying is NOT a subject near and dear to her heart.
  • 10:00 What The Bullying Antidote is and how the book is structured – 3 parts
  • 11:30 What bullying is and how we can understand it: bullying defined, the bullying dynamic.
  • 14:50 Zorgos!
  • 17:30 Racism, Terrorism… how we justify bullying with fear and confusion.
  • 18:45 What’s in the news: “average citizen” shooter in Chattanooga has an abusive family; random racial beating by college students; Boko Haram uses child bombers; what bullying turns into.
  • 22:00 What do we tolerate and what do we nurture? How the extreme fundamentalist, autocratic parenting style has swung to permissive style. Cultural support for and normalcy of bullying.
  • 25:00 Three mainstream parenting practices that unknowingly nurture bullying dynamics.
  • 27:30 ACES study
  • 30:00 Long-term research on punishment in Sweden – the story of how one country changed its story, and how the US rates in UNICEF study.
  • 34:00 Brain Science – we are wired for negativity and need to consciously work on positivity
  • 35:00 No-spank laws and the Declaration on the Rights of the Child
  • 39:00 How the US ranks nationally for childhood wellness
  • 41:30 The great work being done in the US, in schools, to diminish bullying
  • 43:45 Pre-school is key to protecting society from bullying & crime
  • 44:30 How cooperative preschools create good culture; what to look for in schools in terms of bullying
  • 47:00 <an enthusiastic plug for Pixar’s Inside Out!
  • 48:00 My Vision for World Domination…?
  • 50:00 (How this book can help heal adult love relationships as well!)
  • 53:00 Bullying is being mean! If we are compassionate to ourselves, we won’t hurt others/our kids. 
  • 54:00 Gandalf’s intention: “You! Shall! Not! Pass!” Great example of how to stand up against bullies.
  • 56:00 How Paula’s daughter was bullied (note about handout at bottom of this page: https://zorgos.wordpress.com/discussion/)
  • 1:03 Kristen’s response…pecking orders… when bullying begins… how schools respond…what bullying isn’t…testing…
  • 1:08:30 How Kristen was a bully, and what her teacher did.
  • 1:09:30 Christilyn on Halt and Catch Fire “faggot” locker scene – how sexual difference is a “protected” area for bullies
  • 1:13 Kristen compares culture of gay bullying before legal Gay Marriage struggle to Nazi and Slavery propaganda that made killing Jews, enslaving blacks culturally/economically correct. Bringing injustice to light eliminates systemic discrimination.
  • 1:16 good school rules – respect, no labeling
  • 1:18 Dennis Leary quote: “My kid hates one thing: naps.” How racism and hatred are perpetuated.
  • 1:19:45 Chrystilin on how teaching kids how to be obedient teaches them to accept social bullying
  • 1:20:30 Fight, Flight, or Freeze question
  • 1:21: Nazi generation victims of terrible parenting in Weimar Republic – children as “poison containers” – this mindset happening now. How a child’s brain chooses whether to develop survival- or growth- oriented neurons. Feminine perspective is “tend and befriend.” Kids learn there are other options to conflict.
  • 1:28:30 The power of upstanders! Great stories about people with Zorgos who say “knock it off.” (bully guards, mean stinks, pink shirt day)
  • 1:34 How one parent turned her child bully’s life around 
  • 1:36 Caller: a schoolteacher who sees systemic bullying. Thoughts on anti-bullying policies.
  • 1:42 How to look at school bullying programs & policies
  • 1:46 (shout-out to Oakland), and the importance of parents in supporting schools
  • 1:50:30 Bullying is a human rights issue.
  • 1:52:30 Don’t read The Bullying Antidote alone! The work of changing a culture cannot be done alone.
  • 1:53 Quick look at Part 3 of the book – things you can learn.
  • 1:57 parents are more powerful than we know! Parents could turn bullying around in one generation by teaching our kids Zorgos!