Bullying and How Not to Stop It

A teacher recently ordered the poster containing the Levels of Development. When she hung it in her classroom, the school principal asked her to take it down. Why? The poster contained the word bullying.

I developed the hierarchy around of the thinking of Stephen Covey’s first habit of highly effective people: Be Proactive. 

The Levels of Development places “Anarchy” at the bottom level of unacceptable behavior. In a classroom this would be exemplified by such behaviors as leaving materials around, pushing others, throwing paper airplanes, and other unacceptable and unsafe behaviors.

The next level up the ladder refers to “Bullying” and bothering others. Examples are making fun of others, not being kind, and other activities where a child bosses someone else in an unacceptable way. These lower levels—anarchy and bullying—are unacceptable behaviors and are therefore discussed.

The next two steps up the hierarchy refer to levels of motivation. Level C, “Cooperation” or “Conformity,” refers to external motivation, such as getting a reward or avoiding punishment. Level D refers to “Democracy.” This term is used because democracy and responsibility are inseparable. This is the internal level of motivation and refers to doing the right thing because it is “the right thing to do.”

Rather than discussing ways to prevent bullying (Level B), the principal’s decision was to place it under the rug where it would not be seen—as if that is the way to empower students to reduce bullying.

The most effective approach to eliminating anything—including bullying—is to put the topic on the table and then discuss it. In this approach, young people become empowered to reduce bullying.