Helping Children Deal with Teasing and Bullying

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The best paper on the *external* locus of control of teasing and stuttering problem

From: Gunars K. Neiders
Date: 10/7/01
Time: 3:57:48 PM
Remote Name:



Firstly, let me congratulate you on a truly good paper on how the parents, teachers, community, peers, and the child himself as a SYSTEM can handle the teasing and bullying. I am sure that if the school system, parents and peers would have read this paper and followed the suggestions the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado would NOT have occurred.

The intervention model is so good that it is worth repeating:

1. Each teasing/bullying event will require a different solution.

2. The strategies used by the child must suit the child.

3. Children and parents must use judgment in responding.

4. Role playing is fundamental for the child to be assertive and use strategies with confidence.

5. Intervention must be tailored to the needs of the child, parents and classroom peers.

I have started an electronic file of fundamental papers and this is one of them.

Having said that let us now concentrate on the INTERNAL locus of control, of teaching a child how to interact solely within himself when these teasing and bullying events occur, what kind of self-talk would benefit the child so as not to make him feel miserable, permanently scar him or get him in difficulties (for example, physically attacking his tormentors).

Piaget, the famous child psychologist, found out that by the age of 8 to 9 years, a child can be taught to form some philosophical views of the world, can abstract some concepts, and learn to interpret events around him based on a specific self-constructed framework of the world. If Piaget is right, then I posit that a child can be taught:

A. To develop the ability to distinguish the degrees of severity of teasing and bullying, to classify it in terms of shades of grey, instead of only thinking in black and white. In his mind he can categorize incidents from "Tom was just joshing a little today" to " Joey was real mean and bullying, he was taking away my opportunity to play."

B. The child can also be taught to discriminate between solving the practical problem of stopping the teasing and bullying (EXTERNAL locus of control) and working through his emotional problems. The emotional problems consists of his own self defeating emotions (which are under INTERNAL locus of control) such as self-pity, depression, fear, anxiety, anger, shame, helplessness and frustration. What follows is a short explanation of each and one way of handling them. The question TO YOU is: "Have you ever used these or other techniques to work through these self-defeating emotions?"

B1. Self-pity, the feeling of poor me, I believe can be worked through by helping the child to understand the world better. To understand that there are times when a person is hurt, but that being miserable about it is propagated by certain self-talk. "Pain is mandatory, misery is optional."

B2. Happiness is NOT the opposite of depression, zest and optimism is. Here I believe that helping the child understand that when in one area of life things do not go well, then, at least we can do things in other areas. And there is always a good chance that we can make tomorrow better.

B3. Fear can be subdivided into fear for physical safety, fear for somebody taking the away some enjoyments, fear of losing friends, and fear that a person can take away your self-image your self-worth. I think that discussing with the child, starting with the age of 8 or 9, what the real probability of these events occurring can dissipate at least some of the fear.

B4. By anxiety I mean a type of fear of the unknown. For example, there are some of us with inherited or deeply rooted anxieties learned over a period of time or arising from a type of "post traumatic stress syndrome". I believe the best antidote to anxiety is unconditional self acceptance, not conditional self-esteem based on whether one can do something well , whether he is approved by other people, whether one comes from the right family, or whether he owns certain clothes. This is a hard concept to get through to adults, even student therapists, and professionals, let alone kids. One technique that sometimes works is trying to do this by analogy. "A ruler measures length, a thermometer measures temperature, but how do you measure your worth as a human being? Isn't it ridiculous to rate yourself, your WHOLE being, on one aspect, such as fluency?

B5. Anger, the Jehovah like COMMAND that the other person SHOULD NOT have done this to you and that when you lash out the WHOLE universe is backing you up because you are indubitably right, or at LEAST the universe SHOULD be backing you up, can best, I believe, be challenged by giving the other people the RIGHT to be wrong and then working like dickens :-) to stop them from doing it again. Modern psychological studies have shown that expressing anger either verbally or physically does reduce anger in the short run, but in the long run only teaches the person to be more easily angered. "How do you get to Carnegie Hall," as the old joke goes, "Practice, practice, practice!" "How do you become an angry person?" "Practice, practice, practice!:-)"

B6. Shame is based on the self-talk that "I have to do everything right and be approved by other people!" I believe that explaining to a child that we all have made mistakes, that all people have shortcommings, and that all people are rejected with a nauseating frequency :-) by significant people around them, gets your foot in the door. However, the best way is to model to the child some outlandish behavior, called doing anti-shame exercises, and let him see that nothing dire happens to you. In a group, in a safe place, in the same way we may well have a game, I believe, of who can come up with the most outlandish behavior (as long as it does not hurt anybody) that would usually invoke the feeling of shame (yes, even picking your nose :-)). Some type of anti-shame toughening, I believe is essential for a person who stutters. I personally would not recommend sending out a vulnerable child in public to do anti-shame exercises.

B7. The feeling of helplessness can best be overcome by doing what you suggest in the paper. Letting the child know that he can fully participate in the elimination of teasing and bullying and talking about how HE helped should do the trick.

B8. Frustration is another one of those things that permeate our life. Some people appear to be able to cope with frustration better than others. Talking with the child how he lived through and learned to handle frustrations in the past might well be the best tack, in my opinion, to take.

Of course, as Kelly, the constructivist psychologist, suggested this type of talk therapy best be done in the terminology the child himself uses and understands.

In summary, I believe feelings can be worked through to the extent that eventually you one can say along with Eleanor Roosevelt, "Nobody can insult you, if you do NOT cooperate."

Sorry for the long and awkward way of stating questions, the questions being:

I) Have YOU ever tried to use any of these techniques to handle the INTERNAL locus of the child's reaction to teasing and bullying?

II) If you have used them what kind of success have you had?

III) Do you use any other techniques to deal with children's emotions that inevitably lead to self-downing or other problems if not handled properly?

IV) A question from a friend of our family: Do you at ISTAR have an intensive program for children in the range of 11 or 12 years followed up by long distance therapy?


p.s. Thank you again for the excellent paper.

Last changed: September 12, 2005