Experts are finding that prevention not punishment is key to stopping bullying.
Recent research is finding that slowing down bullying or thwarting it are not effective and a new approach is needed focused on prevention. In addition, punishment is not effective, and may instead make things more difficult for the bully victim.
Recommendations include fostering emotional intelligence early in children, as a prevention against becoming a bully or being victimized by one. This includes creating a positive school culture where bullying is not rewarded or supported socially.
“Research is beginning to identify strategies that are counterproductive,” said Anne K. Jacobs, Ph.D., a licensed clinical child psychologist in Oklahoma City. “Brief interventions such as having an assembly, special guest speaker or adopting a simple anti-bullying motto may be good at raising awareness, but are not sufficient to reduce peer victimization.”
“Bullying involves a power imbalance, so interventions such as conflict resolution and peer mediation are neither appropriate nor helpful. Group treatments of children who frequently bully others tend to backfire as well,” Jacobs said.
Children are not learning emotional intelligence from anti bullying strategies, and important social skills needed for recognizing and coping with strong emotions are overlooked. Without emotional intelligence, children cannot learn the consequences for thinking and behavior. They are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, or not know how to respond to it. Also lacking are skills such as empathy, which enable children to identify with other people’s feelings.
“Emotional intelligence protects people from depression, anxiety and aggression, and equips them to face bullying by managing their own fear and reaching out for help,” write Yale psychology researchers Marc Brackett and Susan Rivers in an article published in February in Education Week. “By contrast, a lack of emotional intelligence predicts aggression, substance abuse and worse mental health.”