Reducing Bullying

Here is a marvelously successful idea to have students understand the motivation of those students who operate on Level B—in this case bullies who pick on others. I used it well in Seoul, Korea to demonstrate how older students take advantage of young students and thereby lose harmony in the Confucian-based society of honoring others.

Use a ruler to demonstrate a teeter-totter (see-saw). Hold it flat and describe that this is how it looks when it is balanced. People who are getting along and making responsible choices keep the teeter-totter in balance.

However, when one person starts to pick on another, the teeter-totter gets out of balance. The person who is picked on starts to feel as if he/she is “lower” than the other person. But, in reality, the bully is actually the one who is feeling bad about her/himself. (Tilt the teeter-totter out of balance to show this.)

So the bullying behavior is actually an attempt to pull the other kid down to the bully’s level—to try to bring things back into balance from the bully’s perspective.

People should see the bully as someone who is having a bad day or feeling bad for some reason. Challenge students to keep this in mind as they decide how to respond to bullying behavior.

With younger kids, prompt them to say, “Sorry you are having a bad day.” The usual result is that the bully is left speechless. Many times the choice is simply to recognize what is going on and walk away, realizing that the one with the problem is the bully.

Having youngsters understand that bullying behavior indicates that the bully is “out of balance” with life is empowering and very liberating.

The discussion also opens the eyes of the bully. No one wants to be known as someone who has problems. These students usually have never thought about their own behavior in this way.