Bullying is a big topic in the field of gifted education, especially in the social/emotional aspects of gifted in which I specialize. So I wanted to pass along some of what I heard at a presentation on bullying by Barbara Coloroso.
As with children with disabilities or special needs, gifted children are often at a higher risk of being bullied. In fact, in one of the first major studies on bullying and gifted students, researchers at Purdue University found that by eighth grade, more than two-thirds of gifted students have been bullied.
Typically, gifted students are bullied because of their exceptional school performance. Other students are either jealous of their abilities and their grades or they see them as a threat in some way. Additionally, their academic abilities make them stand out from their peers. And in some cases, other students can see them as the “teacher’s pet” or a “know it all.”
How can we raise a generation of kids who will stand up for themselves against bullies? Coloroso says protection against bullying starts with knowing how to think. Gifted children have got to know they can think for themselves, and that they don’t have to believe what others are saying to or about them. We must teach gifted children not what to think but to think for themselves. One way to do this is to have them make age appropriate decisions on their own. Increase the difficulty as they get older. Then they’ll know how to stand up for themselves if they become bullied.
Our society is often passive with bullying. A potential witness is a bystander that sees bullying but is afraid to stand up. We need to raise kids who will stand up and say “that’s mean. Stop it!” And, then go sit with the kid who is being ostracized.
We can’t avoid or ignore bullying, and contrary to what some people say, it’s not “just a part of growing up.” The majority of bullying that goes on in middle school, and even in the workplace, is sexual bullying.
Another of Coloroso’s recommendations is not using conflict resolution tools for bullying. Bullying is just plain wrong. There’s nothing to discuss. Teasing is what friends do. Taunting is what bullies do. Bullying is a conscious, willful and deliberate hostile activity intended to do harm. There’s no conflict that needs to be resolved.
Bullies dehumanize others by calling them names. Bullies don’t see their targets as people. “Once I dehumanize you, I can do whatever I want to you.” Bullying is about utter contempt for another human being. Kids model what they see us do. As for sibling rivalry, conflict is inevitable. Violence and bullying is not.
Our schools need to have anti-bullying measures in place: A policy firmly against bullying; procedures against bullying; and programs against bullying to help teach kids honor humanity.
Coloroso says that a good come-back for someone being bullied is: “That comment was beneath both of us.”
Barbara Coloroso’s Seven Steps To Stop Bullying:
2. Create opportunities to “do good”
3. Nurture empathy
4. Teach friendship skills
5. Closely monitor TV viewing, video games and computer activities
6. Engage in more constructive, entertaining, energizing activities
7. Teach ways to “do good will”
As adults, we can pay attention, get involved, and never ever look away.