BULLYING ~ HOW CAN WE STOP THE PAIN?

 

 

 

BULLYING ~ HOW CAN WE STOP THE PAIN?

 

School, college and the workplace can be hell for children, young people, and older.

 

Many shall face prejudice based on where they live, what they wear, their family set-up, and what their parents do for a living.  Their family's country of origin or religion can be triggers for bullying.

 

See the two new Sections listed below, marked with * ~ broadening the range of information on this curse.

 


 

 

Winter 2019

 

Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students | 

Online Thesis Specialist and Tutor

 


 

The topics covered below are ~

 

WE ALL KNOW IT HAPPENS! ~

WHAT CAN WE DO?

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD IS THE BULLY

BULLYING: ‘I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST PART OF BEING A CHILD’

HOW DOES YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL HANDLE BULLYING? ~

Ana Kriégel case turns spotlight on how schools deal with bullying

SCHOOL BULLYING: SEVEN THINGS PGCs NEED TO KNOW *

SCHOOL BULLYING: HOW A NEW PROJECT PLANS TO REDUCE IT *

WHY HATERS HATE:  Kierkegaard Explains the Psychology of Bullying and Online Trolling, in 1847

 

 


 

 

 WE ALL KNOW IT HAPPENS!

From the beginning of every new school year, from Montessori / pre-school age, all the way through to secondary school, college, university to the workplace, many children and young people face prejudice, degradation, and bullying.    

 

The collapse over the last fifteen and more years in many families’ standards of living exacerbates the problem.  Homelessness is a national scandal in Ireland, but the necessary steps are not taken as owners of property and land hold huge sway with the two major political parties.

 

 

Children and young people are being subjected to personal insults because of their families' financial circumstances.  Many have suffered as a result of the decision to save the pillar banks with tax-payers' money when the Great Crash happened.  There is a lack of follow-through on priorities promised but not fulfilled, particularly in the sectors of education and medical cover, made by a series of Governments, of all hues.  Almost every family is affected by this retrenchment.

 

The ever-widening introduction of zero hour contracts means that people in the workforce are faced with keeping their heads down and being picked for work next week, or complaining and possibly not being picked at all.  The room for exploitation and bullying causes a gaping hole in the well-being of families, single people, and our general social interaction.

 

The wrong trainers, the wrong backpack, the wrong pencil case, the wrong drink bottle and lunch box. 

It starts at the beginning of the day, and just goes on.

 

Some manifestations can be so subtle, it is very difficult to put one's finger on it and say "Yes, that's clearly Prejudice!"  What youngster is going to call out “Teacher, teacher, she said my backpack is cat!”  None.

 

BULLIES know this, and they rely on it not to be caught.

 

In times of uncertainty, when those who thought 'they had', and now find 'they do not have', some lash out.  People who have just about made it through all their lives, are finding the cuts savage.  

 

When times are hard, we should be redoubling our efforts to keep young people in education and support them there by all means necessary.  We have to make the option of education attractive, and we have to fund it properly.  College or university are not the only options.  There are excellently funded, very well run, apprenticeship schemes available.  Some pay the students while they study.

 

 

A BROAD DEBATE

We need a national debate on what behaviour is acceptable in society and that includes schools, colleges, universities, and the workplace.  This definitely includes the behaviour of teachers, principals, and anyone employed by or in connection with a school, as well as that of the students.  Employers cannot be allowed to get away with "we have a HR Department that deals with that type of thing".

 

I know a personable young man and keen student who kicked a locker in the sports locker room and was seen to do it by the Sports' Master. True, he shouldn't have kicked it. The young man was facing into his Leaving Certificate Year, the final year for secondary school students, and the Sports' Master insisted on having him 'excluded' with the intention of having him expelled!  I believe the attitude taken by the Sports' Master was an abuse of his position.  Calming down efforts were carried out over a prolonged period, and the Sports' Master did not get his expulsion.  

 

 The Paris Climate Change Accord discussions had nothing on the efforts of many parties to get that young man back into school in time to start his final year.  Just the week before the start of the new school year he was told he could return.  However, nothing can give him back the months of school he missed at a crucial stage in his education.  This is not an isolated incident.  

 

Very few of us get a second chance at the Leaving Certificate, a local State exam at the end of second level schooling, and if one has to fit a two-year syllabus into one year, that is a great disadvantage.

 

Let us not fall into a habit of presumptions.  The bully is not necessarily the young man from the flats: is it the teacher who picks on him daily?

  


 

I believe we have to start by being honest with ourselves

 

We need to examine how open we are at home to listening to accounts of the day.  We need to put time aside to give our full attention to what going on, and if we get only shrugs, mumbles, and 'dunnos', we have to follow up.

 

Sometimes, telling a story from our own school experiences is an opportunity for a youngster to realise you too actually had schooldays and they weren't perfect, far from it on some occasions.  

 

 We have to make space and quiet time at home for real conversation to take place.

 

 

THERE'S STILL TIME TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION

I have three siblings and all of us were beaten mercilessly in junior school.  Many years later when we came back to Dubli for Christmas or funerals, we'd talk about Sr X or Sr Y, and the way one had with a ruler between the knuckles of a clenched fist flat on the desk, or another with the nib of a  ballpoint pen smashed very hard and repeatedly into the scalp - a particularly cruel one that - as no bruises showed through the hair.  Our mother used to ask "Why did you never tell me?".  It never dawned on us to do so.  That was school life.

Might that be the story with your youngster?

 

 

Youngsters need to know that their parents / guardians / carers (PGCs) are on their side and will face the teacher or the principal or whomever, when wrong has been done. 

 

 

Children also need to be told that a bully is a coward, which doesn't mean one should take him or her on in single combat, but that a bully is just another person who, for possibly many reasons, feels pleasure in making other people miserble.  Bullies usually like to have lackeys.  They are less vulnerable if they have others they can send to do their dirty work, or to join together to try and rule a whole class, sometimes including the teacher.

 

 

From a young age, children need to be taught that they are loved, cherished, and valued.  No-one has the right to make them upset deliberately, to hurt their feelings, or to hurt them physically.

 

 

PGCs cannot be around for every battle.  Youngsters need to learn strategies to avoid problem situations, and need to work out for themselves what is the best plan for their welfare.  PGCs can help with ideas that worked for them in school and in work.  Talking to other PGCs is always a useful exercise.

 

 

See below Jenny Sherlock's article

"Bullying: 'I thought it was just part of being a child' ".

 

 

We need to look at all aspects of school life, at everyone who works there, be it students from the youngest age to the end of second level, and all the teachers, classroom assistants, coaches, principals, and anyone employed by or in connection with a school.

 

In some schools, a student who is outstanding on the sports field, is fairly untouchable; able to get away with behaviour lesser gifted schoolmates would never dream of trying!

 

 

The contents of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) might surprise some people as to the extent of the Rights of the Child, who is anyone under the age of 18 years.  Might this not be another good place to start a conversation in the family on what kinds of society we want, for the welfare of all?

 

Please see Email: info@childrensrights.ie, and,

Web: www.childrensrights.ie, for further information.

 

 

If you put either

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

or

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) in Schools

in a search engine, the document can be dowloaded as a PDF.doc, or read on the screen.  It is very illuminating and may cause some adults to reconsider how they treat children.

 

 


 

 

 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

 

In my Article, “Teachers ~ Caring for Yourselves, Your Students, and Relieving Stress”, there is a Section near the end called MANAGING CLASSROOM BEHAVIOUR Give Children an Opportunity to Discuss and Plan Behaviour in their Class ~ and to Choose Priorities.

 

This is based on announcing at the very start of the School Year that everyone in the class shall be asked what kind of behaviour everyone would like to experience in the classroom, playground, and anywhere else connected with their School and, equally, what behaviour would be unacceptable.  The answers are written up, and added to over a couple of weeks.  The “Class Rules” are be distilled from these ideas.  Everyone gives at least one good and one bad example of behaviour for the list.

 

 

Very young children are perfectly well able to understand what is fair and unfair; and they know how to say what they do and do not like.

 

 

Starting young, and learning, through debate, what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable to our classmates is a very good foundation for life in general, as well as for a school career.

 

NOT for a moment am I suggesting that this is the answer to insidious snobbery and degrading treatment of some students by others.

 

However, it is a place to give a forum to students to express their ideas of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.  PLEASE, let us pool our ideas and experiences.

 

WOULD IT NOT be marvellous to start a new school term / year with a plan to spike bullying, prejudice, degrading treatment, and the undermining of students’ self-confidence?

 

Given that we all have a duty to those who are more vulnerable, please let us give consideration to what worked in the past, perhaps when we were at school, or things that worked in a child’s class, or in any circles where groups of young people gather.

 

 

Perhaps, many, many, years ago, some of us were bullies. 

Those insight and ideas would be useful now.

 

Please see my Article, MY PATH TO EDUCATION (called Education Practice on the Menu), and the Section near the end called Negative School Experiences. I believe that in some schools, with particular teachers, the relationship between teacher and second levels students is still in the 19th Century.  Many teachers are progressive and committed, but one bully can ruin the atmosphere of a whole school. 

 

 


 

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD IS THE BULLY

 

The following comes from 'Child Crisis Arizona'.

https://childcrisisaz.org/contact/ |

http://childcrisisaz.org/5-incredible-benefits-of-art-for-kids/

 

No parent wants to get that call from their child’s school about their child being bullied.  But what happens when the bully the school is calling about is your child?  Although it might come as a shock to you, and you may want to deny it, bullying is a serious issue that no parent should ignore.  Instead, take a deep breath and use these tips to help your bully understand what he / she did wrong and which behaviours need to change.

 

 

KEEP YOUR COOL

Finding out that your child has been involved in bullying can be a shock, but don’t panic.  Remember, this doesn’t mean that you are a failure as a parent or that you have a bad child!  And, just because your child acted like a bully this time, doesn’t mean he / she will be a bully for life!  Children choose to bully others for a variety of reasons, so it’s important to avoid getting caught up in your own feelings, and investigate thoroughly the situation before talking with your child.

 

 

DON'T PLAY THE BLAME GAME

Once you’ve got all the available facts from your child’s teacher or principal, make time to talk with your child.  Review the incident as calmly as possible with your child and be careful not to play the blame game.  Instead, keep the conversation focused on the choices and behaviour of your child, rather than on the actions of the other children involved.

  

 

ENCOURAGE EMPATHY 

After your child has had a chance to tell you his / her side of the story, ask him / her to imagine him / herself in the victim’s shoes.  How would he / she feel if he had been treated this way?  Asking your child to think critically about the situation, rather than telling him / her how he / she should feel, will help him / her develop a sense of empathy and could prevent the child from engaging in bully behaviour in the future.  [This can only happen if the child is old enough to understand that actions have consequences.  The idea that a child is encouraged to say ‘Sorry’, even if he or she doesn’t mean it, or doesn’t understand fully the concept of apologising, is flawed, and is a bad idea, fraught with probable negative consequences.  If all a child learns / realises from the experience is that saying ‘Sorry’ is a way to get out of trouble, one is setting up a situation where the child thinks lying, saying ‘Sorry’ when it’s not meant, but has been shown to be the route out of trouble, will lead to a good deal more trouble for both the child and parent.]

 

  

MAKE AMENDS

Once your child has admitted to doing something wrong, it’s time to talk about how he / she can try and make amends.  Brainstorm with your child and figure out a few different things your child can do to help make things right again.  Does he / she need to just say ‘Sorry’?  Take down an offensive social media comment?  Replace another child’s property?  Help him / her figure out what needs to be done, and encourage him / her to make up with the other child as soon as possible.  [This too has to depend on the level of understanding of the bullying child.  If he or she doesn’t feel sorry, but sees apologising / replacing a child’s property is the way to make a problem go away, then the child has learnt nothing helpful to his or her understanding of right and wrong actions, or taking responsibility for one’s actions.  He or she has learnt a strategy to help get oneself out of trouble, even if it means telling a lie to make the problem go away.  A child should not be made to apologize if he or she does not understand the concept of contrition, of feeling bad about what he or she did, and has not understood truly what it means to hurt another person.]

 

  

TALK ABOUT CONSEQUENCES

Be firm with your child.  Let him / her know in no uncertain terms that, although you will always love him / her, this type of behaviour is unacceptable and comes with consequences.  

 

 

Then, let your child know what the punishment will be for bullying, whether it means taking a time out, losing internet privileges, or making him / her pay for breaking something with his / her own allowance.  [Without an age range or an indication of the level of understanding of the bullying child, no-one can judge if talking about consequences would be a useful exercise.  A child may understand the consequences at home if he or she throws his / her dinner plate on the floor.  This will have happened at least a couple of times, and if the parents have been consistent, the reaction of the parents will have been the same for each incident, and the child will know, therefore, what to expect by way of reaction.  That does not mean that the child understands the concept of consequences, or that consequences follow on from an action.]

 

  

FIND THE ROOT CAUSE

When children lash out and do something hurtful, it may be because they’re hurting or have needs that aren’t being met.  Most often, bullies act out because they are looking for acknowledgement, control or attention.  

 

Talking with your child about why he / she felt the need to participate in bad behaviour will help you get to the root of the bullying issues and could help you prevent that behaviour moving forward.  [I think bringing up the idea of ‘bad behaviour’ when trying to get to the reason behind an action will make the child less likely to be open about what he or she was feeling or thinking. 

 

An open-ended question along the lines of “Do you remember what you were thinking or feeling, or what was happening around you, when you did that thing to X?” is more likely to get an attempt on the part of the child to tell the story of what was going on around him or her, and how he or she was feeling at the time.  Other forces could have been at play which resulted in the child turning and picking on another.

 

Equally, the child could have been feeling angry about something, anything, and took it out on a random child who was unfortunate to be at hand.  The bullying child may remember being angry, but may well not be able to say what caused the anger.  It could have been a reaction to something that happened in the previous few moments, or the result of an anger that was simmering for some time.]

 

Child Crisis Arizona

Website by Site Mechanix

 

 

 [I have added colour to the text and highlighted sections, ICOB.]

 

 


 

 

SOME GENERAL BACKGROUND 

 

I was listening to pleas from parents on the Irish National Broadcaster, RTÉ1, complaining of the ever-increasing cost of preparing children and young people for school. 

 

The levels of stress in the voices of the parents was palpable.

 

 

UTTER NONSENSE

Quite a number of schools insist that each pupil has a new uniform, each year, irrespective of last year’s uniform still fitting, or an older sibling’s uniform fitting.  This is nonsense.  I believe the Parents’ Councils in these schools should meet and declare this particular Rule “unfair and discriminatory”.  Once that has happened, if the School Management does not delete the Rule, it leaves itself open to litigation.  Taking a court case is not necessary, however it would be a constant possibility, acting as a spur under the saddle of the School Management. 

 

 

OTHER SITUATIONS FACING MANY FAMILIES

Many families are faced with hugely increased rent bills for their homes.  Others are searching for an affordable home, with their children; such places are not available.  Social housing is barely available in the larger cities.

 

Many families have gone from paying a mortgage to ending up in temporary accommodation in hotels, fast, having lost their houses.  A whole family lives in one room, plus the bathroom.  They are not allowed in the public areas of the hotels, including the dining-room, even though the Government is paying bed and breakfast rates for these families.  They are obliged to enter and leave via the service entrance. 

 

They live on take-away food.  They have no cooking facilities available to them, and cooking is not allowed in bedrooms.  Take-away food is an unsatisfactory diet, and very expensive.

 

 

YOUNG PEOPLE TELLING THEIR STORIES

I have heard anonymous young people describe their lives on the radio one afternoon when their parents are in work.  It is heart-aching.  They talk about living in one room with all the family; the noise of the television; no place to do homework; the noise of the bathroom fan on all night to dry clothes.  These young people are not complaining about their parents.  Indeed, they make a point of saying how hard they are trying to make life as normal as possible for the family.  They know the stress their parents are under, and do not wish to add to it.

 

In an attempt to keep continuity in their offsprings’ lives, most parents try to keep them at their old schools, frequently involving very long journeys.  We can be fairly certain these children and young people WOULD NOT tell their parents about bullying and degrading treatment in school.

 

Although the data given is Irish-based, I believe similar experiences are being felt across Europe, Africa, Asia, the USA, and other places I have not listed.  Many peoples' lives are in turmoil.  In the old days, it used to be called “Tuppence-h’penny lookin’ down on tuppence”.  It doesn’t matter what the currency is, it is happening everywhere.

 

 

SCHOOL UNIFORMS, Costs, Autism / ADHD / Extremely Sensitive Skin

None of the conversation around generic or specific school uniforms I have heard deals with the serious and widespread problem of children and young people on the Autistic Spectrum, with ADHD, or with extremely sensitive skin, each having the greatest difficulty tolerating the itchy, scratchy, uniforms of any kind, with their labels and seams, and very uncomfortable fabrics.  I have looked into this matter, and found a business started by a woman whose daughter has autism, and was not able to find school uniforms her daughter could tolerate, she has developed her own range.  This can be found at https://spectrasensoryclothing.com/.  I know the owner, Meta, is growing her range all the time, and she has some ingenious ideas.  Trying to concentrate in school with a learning disability, while wearing a uniform which is continual torture, and is giving these children and young people little chance of benefiting fully from school.  

 

For clarity’s sake, I have no financial or other interest in this Company.  It's an example of the lengths parents will go to help their children.

 

While basic, generic, school uniforms can be bought inexpensively in supermarkets and department stores, how do families with special needs children get help to buy the special uniforms that their children can tolerate?

 

 


 

BULLYING: ‘I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST PART OF BEING A CHILD’

 

 

BULLYING: ‘I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST PART OF BEING A CHILD’

 

Being bullied as a child contributed to how strong I am as an adult.

 

 

 

 Jenny Sherlock

 The Irish Times, Tue, Apr 23, 2019.

 

 

I was bullied as a child.  When I say bullied, I mean I was constantly insulted, pushed and kicked.  

At the time, I didn’t realise the extent of what was happening, for me that was normality.  It’s not that it didn’t upset me, I had some very tough days, but, overall, I put some of it down to boys being rough and girls being mean.  

I thought it was just part of being a child.

 

I was an easy target, a bully’s dream; a very petite redhead with lots of freckles and glasses.  If there was something to make fun of, I had it.  I was called every variation of name you can think of, the mildest of which were squirt, four eyes and circus freak (because of my red hair), I was told I should wash my face because my freckles looked like dirt; I was picked up and thrown down because I was light and small; I was kicked under the table at school; my bag was knocked off my back; it was endless.

 

There were days when I cried, shouted and acted out.  There were days when all I wanted was to skip school and get hugs from my mother.  It was a frustrating time for me because it seemed that no matter what I said or did, nothing would deter them.  There were days when it rolled off my back because I had decided it wasn’t going to affect me.

 

I realised that being the bully felt so much worse because I had the power to stop it and I didn’t.

 

I remember the worst day so clearly, I was sitting with three boys in my class (the main perpetrators) when they started making fun of my friend.  Then I did something unforgivable, I joined in.  They seemed to accept me in that moment and told me if I made fun of her to her face, they would leave me alone.  Needless to say, that wasn’t true.

 

What actually happened was I hurt my friend, I got into trouble with teachers for bullying and things continued as before.  It was such a low point for me, it was when I realised that being the bully felt so much worse because I had the power to stop it and I didn’t.

 

The worst part was the look of disappointment on my mother’s face but from something so negative came the best piece of advice I ever got – “You can let them destroy who you are or you can rise above it and let them make you stronger” – so that’s what I decided to do, rise above it every time.  I decided I wasn’t meek and mild, I was small and strong and anyone who knows me now knows that to be true.

 

I am still small, red haired (most of the time), freckly and short sighted, still underestimated because of my size and sometimes need to be louder to make my voice heard or be taken seriously but my features and my size no longer matter to me (except when I am trying to find a pair of jeans that fit).

 

The turning point for me was at a hairdresser one day when I was about 14 or 15.  I was sitting in the chair having my hair trimmed and begging my mother yet again to let me dye my hair brown so I would blend in with everyone else.  There was a girl, not much older than me, maybe about 18, sitting in the chair beside me flicking through hair colour samples, deciding what to put in her hair.

 

I was shocked when she looked in my direction and asked for my hair colour, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to have anything I had.  I thought about that moment for weeks afterwards and though it may seem like nothing, it gave me a different view of myself.

 

I made a conscious effort to start being kinder to myself, to be more accepting of who I am and how I look.  That’s not always easy, I can still be quite hard on myself but it’s a work in progress and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

 

While bullying is never okay, we shouldn’t underestimate the resilience of children.

 

While being bullied was difficult and traumatic at the time, I truly feel that it helped me build coping skills and contributed to how strong I am as an adult.  I feel it made me work harder for things I deserve, it has taught me to see the fact that people who do bad things are not necessarily bad people.  I am more aware of my own shortcomings than I may otherwise have been.

 

From a parent’s point of view, I try to protect my children but only where I think they need me to.  I know they have courage and strength to fight some of their own battles and they know I have their back when they need me.  We have a responsibility to fight on behalf of our children, but we have an equal responsibility to let our children figure out how to cope with and learn from difficult experiences.  While bullying is never okay, we shouldn’t underestimate the resilience of children.

 

Being bullied is never a sign of weakness, it can show us how much strength we actually have.

 

 

[I have added colour to the text and highlighted sections, ICOB.]

 

 


 

HOW DOES YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL HANDLE BULLYING?

Copyright : Miroslav Pinkava

 

HOW DOES YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL HANDLE BULLYING?

 

Some schools turn a blind eye to reports of bullying, until something serious happens.

 

 

Jen Hogan

The Irish Times, Tuesday 23 April 2019.

 

 

Unfortunately, bullying is an issue which continues to affect significant numbers of children, according to Childline. 

 

As PGCs, we send our children to school in the hope it’s a safe place for them to grow academically, socially and emotionally.  But while schooldays are often fondly referred to as “the best days of our lives”, for many children their experience is far removed from the platitude.

 

The ISPCC’s (Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children) interim head of frontline services, Aoife Griffin, says “regrettably, bullying is an issue which continues to affect significant numbers of children and young people in Ireland. Through the group’s Childline service – anyone up to age 18 can contact the service: 1800 66 66 66 (24 hours), texting to 50101 or chatting online at childline.ie (both 10am-4am) – we see how this type of behaviour can have a detrimental effect on young people’s lives and on their self-esteem.  Bullying can take many forms, and can happen in a wide variety of settings, including both online and offline.”

 

*****

 

Sophie (15) experienced bullying throughout primary school, transitioning from a happy-go-lucky child to an “introverted, quiet child, who spent hours alone in her bedroom, refusing to engage in any activities which didn’t involve immediate family”, her mother, Anne-Marie, says.

 

Anxiety and panic attacks became a real issue at home.  Her self-esteem was shattered.

 

Sophie was singled out at yard time, called names, put down, blamed for incidents that didn’t involve her and her personal possessions would go missing.  Anxiety and panic attacks became a real issue at home.  Her self-esteem was shattered.”

 

Anne-Marie tried to deal with the issue within the family unit.  “I worked tirelessly with Sophie to realise her self-worth and that none of this was her fault.  Eventually I started calling other parents to see if I could get more information and I have to admit a few were quite helpful, discussing in a gentle way with their own children ways to help build a support network for Sophie within the class.

 

“It’s very stressful as a parent dropping your child off every morning to school not knowing what to expect when you collect your child in the afternoon.”  When Anne-Marie initially involved the School she felt the teacher “turned a blind eye on the situation and didn’t want to know about the emotionally vulnerable child in the class”.  A panic attack in yard following a further incident changed this, and a meeting took place with the Principal to ensure Sophie was coming “to a safe environment” in school.

 

“The biggest factor in helping Sophie was building her back up again,” her mother says.  “This was a long road involving play therapy over a number of months.  This equipped her with what she needed to be comfortable with herself, those around her and the confidence to face anything new.”

 

 *****

 

Amy’s, (16), bullying problems began when she started secondary school.  It was “slow and subtle” at first, her mother, Hazel, explains and took the form of “exclusion and intimidation”.

 

Amy would go to lunch and the girls wouldn’t move over or save her a spot.  They would make plans for the weekend and not include her and then talk about it in school on Monday in front of her.  They would ignore her when they were talking.  “They would knock Amy’s books out of her hands.  Stand in front of her locker so she couldn’t get to it.  Shoulder her as she was walking down the halls.  Speak loudly about her so others could hear.”

 

As Amy attempted to make new friends, those bullying her targeted them, sending texts asking: “What the f*ck are you doing with Amy?  How dare you have Amy for a sleepover?”

 

Amy became quiet, very anxious and withdrawn in school.  She gave up dancing because they were in it – something she had been doing since junior infants.  Amy started to believe that something must be wrong with her.  They had chipped away at her for so long and well before we knew what was really going on.”

 

Hazel found the school to be of little support.  “The year-head said, ‘Oh, girls fight.  They’ll be friends again.’  The teacher kind of implied that Amy brought it on herself,” Hazel adds.  “She had no time for the anxiety Amy was feeling.  She would call her selfish and lazy for not going to the board or putting her hand up.”

 

Hazel’s own mother died recently.  “I feel we didn’t fight Amy’s corner enough with the school as we assumed they would deal with the bullying appropriately which they didn’t – especially in third year,” she explains.  

 

“I always thought my kids would come to me with anything but learned that Amy didn’t as Mam was sick and she felt I had enough to deal with.  I feel sad that she felt like that and grateful that my daughter is kind and caring and sees beyond herself.”  Amy now attends counselling fortnightly.

 

*****

 

Alan’s son Sean (14) has autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, reading difficulties and physical tics.  Alan describes Sean as “a pleasant boy, never ordinarily in trouble”.  “There were two different bullies.  One was physically intimidating and threatening him.  Eventually it resulted in him being attacked and suffering injuries.  The others would get him into trouble by saying he had said or done things he hadn’t.”

 

He was sent from the class numerous times just for not understanding what he was doing and being too scared to ask the teacher to repeat it.

 

In spite of Sean’s diagnoses, Alan says one teacher would continually pass negative comments in class, which Alan feels “definitely made things worse”.  “He was sent from the class numerous times just for not understanding what he was doing and being too scared to ask the teacher to repeat it.

 

“It was very frustrating having to deal with the school.  Until the physical assault happened, their attitude was he had brought it on himself by telling on this other boy.  When that happened, they reluctantly took steps to ensure he was safe during school hours.  His elder brother was affected as the boy in question was in his class.  Thankfully he listened to us and didn’t take matters into his own hands.”

 

A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Skills advised that: “The Action Plan on Bullying published in January 2013, sets out the department’s approach to tackling bullying.”  The actions contained within “aim to ensure that all forms of bullying, including cyber bullying, are addressed”.   [I feel this Action Plan needs to be updated in light of the growing cyber-bullying, increase in early, easily accessible online pornography, and youth gambling. ICOB.]

 

Alan, however, believes “closer liaison between the school and the parents” is needed and “that similar to the education plans that are put in place for children with learning difficulties, a plan should also be put in place for children who have been bullied”.

 

 


 

 

 The Ana Kriégel case turns the spotlight on how schools deal with bullying

 

  Call for clear legislation to compel schools to have disciplinary codes against harassment

 

 

Carl O'Brien, Education Editor

Thursday 20 June 2019, The Irish Times.

  

  Digital technology means bullying can now follow children home

   

The bullying and murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl, Ana Kriégel, has turned a spotlight on how schools handle harassment involving pupils in a world of social media and smartphones.

  

The trial of two boys found guilty of her murder heard that Ana was bullied online over a prolonged period, with most of the key incidents happening outside the school.

 

The secondary school in question – which cannot be named for legal reasons – has declined to comment.  However, it is understood it advised parents of supports available before, during and after the trial.  It also encouraged parents to contact the school if concerned about their child.

  

The Court heard that during the summer after sixth class (the last year in junior school), Ana was bullied online by third-year students who sent her sexually suggestive messages.  Much of the bullying focused on her height.  The bullies also mocked the fact she was adopted, telling her she had a “fake Mam and Dad”.

  

Ana’s parents took screenshots of some of the messages and showed them to the school.  At one point it was discovered Ana had set up fake social media accounts which she was using to send bullying messages to herself.

 

The bullying was not all online by any means.  The Court heard that Ana came home to her parents terrified after being sexually harassed by a group of four boys.  Her mother told the Court that one boy asked her repeatedly for sex before hitting her on the backside.  A complaint was made to Gardaí and the boy received a caution.

 

 Studies indicate that bullying in schools is widespread, with significant numbers of pupils taunted about their weight or appearance.

 

 One recent study by Dublin City University sought responses from more than 400 students in three secondary schools in the Dublin area, including an all-girls Catholic school, an all-boys Catholic school and a co-educational community college.  It found that bullying and threats were common with a third of participants reporting that they had been on the receiving end of this type of behaviour.

 

Another troubling finding was that only 42 per cent of students in the all-girls school and 21 per cent of students in the all-boys school felt “very safe”.

  

 

Calmly Investigate

The Department of Education and Skills compiled a comprehensive guide for schools to tackle bullying in 2013, and each school is required to have its own policy in place.  Boards of management are required to make this policy available to parents, ideally on the school website or “readily accessible on request”.

 

 If a school or teacher finds that bullying has occurred, they are advised to contact the parents of all parties and set out the actions the school is taking in accordance with its policy.

 

If a child is being bullied, the teacher is first asked to calmly investigate and to try to restore the relationship between the two parties.  Ideally, they should bring the two children together, if the bullied child agrees.  Some education sources, however, say that anti-bullying policies are too often dealt with as peripheral rather than central issues.

  

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, the State’s special rapporteur on child protection, says a clear legislative framework should be introduced compelling schools to have a strong disciplinary code for tackling bullying.  Traditionally bullying, he said, stopped when the child left the school yard.  However, digital technology means it can now follow children home, which requires a more collaborative response that involves schools, students and parents.

 

The most effective means of preventing bullying may be to adopt a whole-school approach.

 

 “This would encompass school policies in areas such as anti-bullying initiatives, codes of behaviour and the use of social media as an educational tool, as well as the involvement of parents,” said Dr Shannon.

  

“One idea, he said, is that each school should have a designated digital champion to deal with online issues.

 

“Education programmes are also vital for children – using role-play or workshops – to boost responsible and empathetic use of social media.”

 

He also said there needed to be a partnership approach between parents and schools which involves ensuring that mothers and fathers understand the complexities of the online world.

 

Dr Shannon, who is involved in drafting guidelines on cybercrime – involving cyberbullying and harassment – for the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council of Europe – said Irish laws need to be updated.

 

There is Irish legislation pending, he said, which aims to update our laws to deal with cyberbullying and cyber-harassment.

 

“We need to ensure our laws are fit for purpose and adequately respond to changes in technology,” he said. “The internet is the new child protection frontier.”

 

 


 [I have added colour to the text, highlighted sections, and made some minimal edits.  ICOB.]

 


 

 

Please see my three Articles, CARE 4 OUR YOUNG PEOPLE, Parents Need to ..., and Porn & Children, etc, which expands on cyber-bullying, including ideas on how to prepare children to face it, and what to do if it is already happening.

 

 


 

SCHOOL BULLYING: SEVEN THINGS PGCs NEED TO KNOW

My photograph from the garden of cornflowers and grasses basking in sunshine.

 

 

SCHOOL BULLYING: SEVEN THINGS PGCs NEED TO KNOW

 

Cyberspace greatly expands audience for bullying and raises level of humiliation and threat.

 

 Sheila Wayman

The Irish Times, Thursday, 24 October, 2019.

 

Research shows that boys are more likely to be bullied in online games and for girls it is more likely to be in social apps.

 

 

1.  What Defines Bullying

In these sensitive times, it is a term that is overused. As nasty as a row between peers may be, it’s not necessarily bullying.

 

Conflict is part of life and children and teenagers have to learn how to cope with conflict and to minimise the effects on them, that is an important part of developing their resilience and well-being,” says Prof James O’Higgins Norman.

 

He holds the prestigious UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace and is Director of the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) and Associate Professor in Sociology, DCU.

 

Bullying has four aspects:

 

  • Intentional;

 

  • Repetitive;

 

  • Power imbalance;

 

  • Negative effects.

 

A power imbalance between peers may be one hiding behind anonymity to target another – a tactic facilitated online.

 

“If it’s anonymous, so you are not sure the people are who they claim to be, that increases the level of power between the bully and the target.”

 

 

2. Where Danger Lurks

Fear of stranger danger is a feature of modern parenting, yet children are far more likely to be threatened by somebody they know. Despite the heightened attention given to cyberbullying, “traditional” bullying is more prevalent but often it crosses over from off-line to online and back again.

 

The migration to cyberspace greatly expands the audience for the bullying and raises the level of humiliation and threat. Research shows that boys are more likely to be bullied in online games and for girls it is more likely to be in social apps.

 

 

3. What PGCs can Expect from Schools

“Parents should expect schools to be their partners in creating safe learning environments for their children,” says O’Higgins Norman.

 

“One of the saddest things is when we get a call to the Centre where a parent has been to the school to express their concern that the child has been bullied and the school becomes defensive or doesn’t listen to the parent.  Most schools are doing their best to address cases of bullying as they occur but sometimes schools can become anxious or defensive and that’s sad because it’s the child that suffers.”

 

 

4. What Schools can Expect from PGCs

Partnership works both ways.  Just as schools can be in denial about what is happening, parents told that their child is engaged in bullying behaviour often respond in a very defensive manner.

 

“I would plea with parents, if your child is the bully please be open to working with the school and addressing that – for the benefit of your child,” he says.  Parents of the victim may, understandably, want the perpetrator punished and even removed but they need to understand that both children may be victims in their own ways.

 

 

5. Prevention Minimises Need for Intervention

Schools need to act speedily and decisively in dealing with reports of bullying.  However, research shows if they have put in work on the prevention side, there will be less need for intervention.

 

Increasingly, an incident requires a response from not just one school but several schools.  When somebody is being bullied online, the bully may be in a different school and a large cohort of bystanders watching it online could be in a third school.  “Principals and pastoral care teams often have to work across schools to address issue,” says O’Higgins Norman.  “In most extreme forms, the Garda Síochána may have to be invited to get involved as well.”

 

 

6.  Teenagers Don’t Tell

Bullying or cyber-bullying usually only comes to the attention of parents and teachers if it becomes very extreme.  Yet ABC research in 2016 found just 20 per cent of parents actively monitor child’s social media activity.

 

“They over-rely on self-reporting of problems by children and teenagers,” says O’Higgins Norman.

 

He acknowledges that it’s particularly difficult for parents as children become teenagers.

 

“They want to increase the trust towards them as they become young adults, they want to respect their privacy in an age-appropriate way.”

 

In an ideal situation kids should be coming to their parents because they want to tell them what’s happening online, rather than fearing that parents are going to interfere.

 

“It’s a very hard balance for parents to get but it’s a balance they have been trying to get for centuries,” he observes.  “In the old days, kids kept diaries, were writing letters to their friends or having private conversations.  Parents would wonder ‘what is going on there?’”

 

 

7.  Judgment can Compound a Victim’s Shame

We all want to equip children to make good decisions but if something goes wrong, they need to know they can immediately seek support from a trusted adult without being judged.

 

Take the 13 per cent of young people who report having had a sexual image of themselves shared without their consent – a form of cyberbullying.

 

“The way adults react to that when it happens can compound the guilt or the embarrassment they feel,” says O’Higgins Norman.  “A mistake has been made in sharing with the wrong person and we need to reassure them that it wasn’t their fault, it’s going to be okay, life will move on.”

 

“Sexting” might be an alien concept to parents who grew up without this enabling technology but the ABC reports that 24 per cent of 15 to 18-year-olds have shared a sexual image online, mostly with someone they are in a relationship with, or would like to be in a relationship with.

 

“When we think back to when we were kids and fancying the boy or girl in the class what did we do to connect with them?  We wrote them little notes and sent them little gifts,” he points out.

 

“So, the impulse to connect is the same impulse as always has been there for generations.  But it’s the technology that’s available today that makes it a much more dangerous activity.”

 


 

SCHOOL BULLYING: HOW A NEW PROJECT PLANS TO REDUCE IT

My photograph from the garden of acid-green euphorbia dotted through with blue forget-me-nots.

 

 

SCHOOL BULLYING: HOW A NEW PROJECT PLANS TO REDUCE IT

 

A programme aims to empower teachers, students, parents / guardians / carers (PGCs) to tackle bullying.

 

 

Sheila Wayman

The Irish Times, Thursday 24 October 2019.

 

School Bullying ~

26 per cent of primary school children in the Country say they have been bullied offline and 13 per cent online.

 

 

A beautifully proportioned 17th-century house in North Dublin is perhaps an unlikely home for a campaign to eradicate bullying in schools around the State.  But Belvedere House, with its elegant, restored rooms, is part of Dublin City University’s St Patrick’s campus in Drumcondra, and has been home to the National Anti-Bullying Centre (ABC) since 2014.

 

The Centre’s Director, Prof James O’Higgins Norman, who greets us in the white, porticoed entrance to the building, holds a prestigious UNESCO chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace.

 

When something like bullying occurs, it is a tremendous knock for the parents, traumatic for the child who is bullied and a cause of deep concern for the school.

 

He is spearheading FUSE, a new anti-bullying and online safety programme devised at the Centre for implementation by students, pPGCs and school staff.  The name comes from the idea that it is “fusing together all the concerns and energies of the people involved” and its aim is to empower children and teenagers to police themselves, knowing teachers and parents are in the background as a support.

 

According to ABC meta-analysis, 26 per cent of primary school children in the Country say they have been bullied offline and 13 per cent online.

In post-primary schools, 12 per cent of pupils report having been bullied offline, 10 per cent online.

 

All PGCs send their children out to school every day, hoping they will be happy and do well, he points out. “When something like bullying occurs, it is a tremendous knock for the parents, traumatic for the child who is bullied and a cause of deep concern for the school. That is why in our FUSE programme we want to bring all three together to work together.”

 

With online bullying now the norm, children and teenagers can be targeted at all times, increasing the intensity of the victimisation. It is also highly challenging for schools, who can no longer regard the perimeter of the school yard as the boundary of their responsibilities for keeping children safe.

 

When dealing with bullying, schools have to be sensitive both to the rights of the person who is targeted but also to the one who is acting out in a bullying way – that child may be doing it as a result of trauma in their own life, he explains. Once parents get involved, it becomes very emotive.

 

“All of a sudden the school is not just dealing with the two kids involved, it is dealing with two sets of parents, extended families and sometimes a conflict in the local community can spill into the school, or vice versa.”

 

A quick and decisive response by the school will reduce the reach of the bullying.

 

Since the national action plan on bullying was published by the Department of Education in 2013, every school is required to have identified an appropriate anti-bullying programme and adapted it for its use.

 

“We know from our research that half the schools have done that and are doing it well; the other half are struggling to do that.  They say they don’t know where to start; they don’t have the time; it’s a resource issue.”

 

O’Higgins Norman and his colleagues hope that FUSE will pave the way, with €1 million in funding from Facebook enabling them to offer it to all 700-plus secondary schools in the State over the next three years.  Meanwhile, the programme will be extended as a pilot into 41 primary schools next year, with the support of the Social Innovation Fund Ireland.

 

While bullying can happen at any age, its incidence peaks from about fourth or fifth class in primary school to second or third year in secondary school, roughly ages 10-15 years.  There are both psychological and sociological perspectives to the phenomenon.

 

“When we look at it from a psychological perspective, people who bully are often operating out of traumatised emotions or coming from a home where aggression is the norm,” he says.  “Looking at it from a sociological perspective, we know when young people experience difference and they don’t understand it, they can sometimes act in a way that is aggressive.”

 

He remembers when he was a teacher himself, more than 20 years ago, the first child of colour came to the Dublin school in which he was working at the time.  “We welcomed that child as teachers and placed her in a classroom and continued with the teaching day.  By the end of the day, that child was outside in the yard, up a tree, with kids throwing stones at her.”

 

As he sees it, the fault lay with the school staff.  “We hadn’t prepared the kids enough to know that a child of colour was the same as them.”  In his career in research since then, he has seen it proven that diversity education reduces bullying.

 

In Victorian times, bullying was seen as part of growing up, a “toughening up” process for boys, as depicted in the 1857 novel, Tom Brown’s School Days, by Thomas Hughes.  However, in these more enlightened times, when we know much more about the causes and effects, schools today must reinforce a message of zero tolerance for bullying.

 

I think we need heroes who are positive role models, who inspire kindness and inclusion. If we can highlight those role models in our school community, that can also have a positive impact.

 

Not that they are helped in this regard by some of the world’s most prominent role models.  For example, there were reports of a surge in school bullying across the United States in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

 

To take a closer look, researchers in Virginia analysed a “school climate” survey taken by 150,000 students across their State.  Looking at student responses around bullying from 2015 to 2017, they found higher rates of bullying and teasing in areas that voted for Donald Trump compared with those that voted for Hillary Clinton.

 

There had been very little difference in 2015 but, by 2017, student responses suggested that bullying rates were 18 per cent higher in areas that voted for Trump than in areas that supported Clinton.

 

Trump exhibits “quite classic” bullying behaviour “and that has an effect on the ground”, says O’Higgins Norman.  Today’s role models in politics, celebrity culture and reality TV are often the most aggressive individuals around.

 

“I think we need heroes who are positive role models, who inspire kindness and inclusion.  If we can highlight those role models in our school community, that can also have a positive impact.”

 

In September 2019, the first batch of 160 teachers from 90 secondary schools came here, to anti-bullying HQ, to start their FUSE training to become “anti-bullying” champions.  Their “mission” includes briefing colleagues on their return and running a series of six workshops with second-year students.  The young people’s practical projects will include presenting an anti-bullying information evening to parents.

 

Research shows that a whole-school approach, led by the students, is what is most effective in countering bullying.  Yet “sometimes adults want to rush in with solutions because it is intuitive for us to want to protect children,” he says.

 

The “peer-to-peer element is really important”, says Amy McArdle, safety policy manager at Facebook.  The Company constantly hears during youth consultations “that there is nobody better placed to talk to young people about issues impacting young people’s lives than young people themselves”.

 

Facebook is funding FUSE because it wants to increase awareness around bullying and its impact on young people particularly, “to increase reporting and ultimately reduce incidents of bullying on our platform”.

 

As to those who might take a jaundiced view of high-profile funding coming from a multi-billion dollar social media company that could be seen as part of the problem, she responds: “I wouldn’t agree that we are part of the problem but rather the problem, which has existed long before the internet and long before social media, can manifest on our platform.  What we are doing is taking our responsibility in that regard very seriously.

 

“We know there is no ‘silver bullet’ that can ensure young people’s safety in any context so we apply a five-point approach: policies, tools, resources, feedback from users and partnerships with experts,” says McArdle, adding that its bullying prevention hub is there to guide young people, parents and educators alike.

 

While O’Higgins Norman is bullish about his belief that bullying and cyber-bullying can be eradicated from schools with a concerted effort by all, he concedes that even if that was done in every school in the Country today, new children will arrive next September.

 

“So, eradication would only be temporary” – unless the anti-bullying message is constantly reinforced.

 

And that starts in the home.

 


 

SCHOOL BULLYING: SEVEN THINGS PGCs NEED TO KNOW

 

Cyberspace greatly expands audience for bullying and raises level of humiliation and threat.

 

 Sheila Wayman

The Irish Times, Thursday, 24 October, 2019.

 

Research shows that boys are more likely to be bullied in online games and for girls it is more likely to be in social apps.

 

 

1.  What Defines Bullying

In these sensitive times, it is a term that is overused. As nasty as a row between peers may be, it’s not necessarily bullying.

 

Conflict is part of life and children and teenagers have to learn how to cope with conflict and to minimise the effects on them, that is an important part of developing their resilience and well-being,” says Prof James O’Higgins Norman.

 

He holds the prestigious UNESCO Chair on Tackling Bullying in Schools and Cyberspace and is Director of the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) and Associate Professor in Sociology, DCU.

 

Bullying has four aspects:

 

  • Intentional;

 

  • Repetitive;

 

  • Power imbalance;

 

  • Negative effects.

 

A power imbalance between peers may be one hiding behind anonymity to target another – a tactic facilitated online.

 

“If it’s anonymous, so you are not sure the people are who they claim to be, that increases the level of power between the bully and the target.”

 

 

2. Where Danger Lurks

Fear of stranger danger is a feature of modern parenting, yet children are far more likely to be threatened by somebody they know. Despite the heightened attention given to cyberbullying, “traditional” bullying is more prevalent but often it crosses over from off-line to online and back again.

 

The migration to cyberspace greatly expands the audience for the bullying and raises the level of humiliation and threat. Research shows that boys are more likely to be bullied in online games and for girls it is more likely to be in social apps.

 

 

3. What PGCs can Expect from Schools

“Parents should expect schools to be their partners in creating safe learning environments for their children,” says O’Higgins Norman.

 

“One of the saddest things is when we get a call to the Centre where a parent has been to the school to express their concern that the child has been bullied and the school becomes defensive or doesn’t listen to the parent.  Most schools are doing their best to address cases of bullying as they occur but sometimes schools can become anxious or defensive and that’s sad because it’s the child that suffers.”

 

 

4. What Schools can Expect from PGCs

Partnership works both ways.  Just as schools can be in denial about what is happening, parents told that their child is engaged in bullying behaviour often respond in a very defensive manner.

 

“I would plea with parents, if your child is the bully please be open to working with the school and addressing that – for the benefit of your child,” he says.  Parents of the victim may, understandably, want the perpetrator punished and even removed but they need to understand that both children may be victims in their own ways.

 

 

5. Prevention Minimises Need for Intervention

Schools need to act speedily and decisively in dealing with reports of bullying.  However, research shows if they have put in work on the prevention side, there will be less need for intervention.

 

Increasingly, an incident requires a response from not just one school but several schools.  When somebody is being bullied online, the bully may be in a different school and a large cohort of bystanders watching it online could be in a third school.  “Principals and pastoral care teams often have to work across schools to address issue,” says O’Higgins Norman.  “In most extreme forms, the Garda Síochána may have to be invited to get involved as well.”

 

 

6.  Teenagers Don’t Tell

Bullying or cyber-bullying usually only comes to the attention of parents and teachers if it becomes very extreme.  Yet ABC research in 2016 found just 20 per cent of parents actively monitor child’s social media activity.

 

“They over-rely on self-reporting of problems by children and teenagers,” says O’Higgins Norman.

 

He acknowledges that it’s particularly difficult for parents as children become teenagers.

 

“They want to increase the trust towards them as they become young adults, they want to respect their privacy in an age-appropriate way.”

 

In an ideal situation kids should be coming to their parents because they want to tell them what’s happening online, rather than fearing that parents are going to interfere.

 

“It’s a very hard balance for parents to get but it’s a balance they have been trying to get for centuries,” he observes.  “In the old days, kids kept diaries, were writing letters to their friends or having private conversations.  Parents would wonder ‘what is going on there?’”

 

 

7.  Judgment can Compound a Victim’s Shame

We all want to equip children to make good decisions but if something goes wrong, they need to know they can immediately seek support from a trusted adult without being judged.

 

Take the 13 per cent of young people who report having had a sexual image of themselves shared without their consent – a form of cyberbullying.

 

“The way adults react to that when it happens can compound the guilt or the embarrassment they feel,” says O’Higgins Norman.  “A mistake has been made in sharing with the wrong person and we need to reassure them that it wasn’t their fault, it’s going to be okay, life will move on.”

 

“Sexting” might be an alien concept to parents who grew up without this enabling technology but the ABC reports that 24 per cent of 15 to 18-year-olds have shared a sexual image online, mostly with someone they are in a relationship with, or would like to be in a relationship with.

 

“When we think back to when we were kids and fancying the boy or girl in the class what did we do to connect with them?  We wrote them little notes and sent them little gifts,” he points out.

 

“So, the impulse to connect is the same impulse as always has been there for generations.  But it’s the technology that’s available today that makes it a much more dangerous activity.”

 

WHY HATERS HATE: Kierkegaard & the Psychology of Bullying

My photograph of periwinkle in the garden running rampant.

 

 

 WHY HATERS HATE:  Kierkegaard Explains the Psychology of Bullying and Online Trolling, in 1847

 

 

Taken from ‘Brain Pickings’ by Maria Popova

<newsletter@brainpickings.org, 02 April 2019.

 

 

Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813 to November 11, 1855) may have only lived a short life, but it was a deep one and its impact radiated widely outward, far across the centuries and disciplines and schools of thought. He was also among the multitude of famous writers who benefited from keeping a diary and nowhere does his paradoxical blend of melancholy and idealism, of despair about the human condition and optimism about the purpose of life, shine more brilliantly than in The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard — a compendium of Kierkegaard’s frequently intense, always astoundingly thoughtful reflections on everything from happiness and melancholy to writing and literature to self-doubt and public opinion.

 

In an immeasurably insightful entry from 1847, 34-year-old Kierkegaard observes a pervasive pathology of our fallible humanity, explaining the same basic psychology that lurks behind contemporary phenomena like bullyingtrolling, and the general assaults of the web’s self-appointed critics, colloquially and rather appropriately known as ‘haters’.

 

 

Kierkegaard writes:

“There is a form of envy of which I frequently have seen examples, in which an individual tries to obtain something by bullying.  If, for instance, I enter a place where many are gathered, it often happens that one or another right away takes up arms against me by beginning to laugh; presumably he feels that he is being a tool of public opinion.  But lo and behold, if I then make a casual remark to him, that same person becomes infinitely pliable and obliging.  

 

Essentially it shows that he regards me as something great, maybe even greater than I am: but if he can’t be admitted as a participant in my greatness, at least he will laugh at me.  But as soon as he becomes a participant, as it were, he brags about my greatness.

 

That is what comes of living in a petty community.

 

 

It is unlikely that Kierkegaard was aware of what would become known as ‘the Benjamin Franklin Effect’ — the Founding Father of the USA formulated his famous reverse-psychology trick for handling haters — and yet he goes on to relay an anecdote that embodies it perfectly.  He recounts coming upon three young men outside his gate who, upon seeing him, “began to grin and altogether initiated the whole gamut of insolence”.  As he approached them, Kierkegaard noticed that they were smoking cigars and turned to one of them, asking for a light.  Suddenly, the men’s attitude took a dramatic U-turn — the seemingly simple exchange had provided precisely that invitation for participation in greatness:

 

“Instantly, all three doffed their hats and it would seem I had done them a service by asking for a light. Ergo: the same people would be happy to cry bravo for me if I merely addressed a friendly, let alone, flattering word to them; as it is, they cry ‘pereat [he shall perish!] and are defiant … All it amounts to is play-acting.  But how invaluably interesting to have one’s knowledge of human psychology enriched in this way.

 

 

Seven years later, shortly before his untimely death, he revisits the subject in a sentiment that explains with enduring insight the psychology of haters:

 

“Showing that they don’t care about me, or caring that I should know they don’t care about me, still denotes dependence … They show me respect precisely by showing me that they don’t respect me”.

 

 


 

 

All your ideas and suggestions would be welcome!

 

 

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien

 

 

If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.  All comments are welcome.

 

Email iseultccobrien@gmail.com.

 

My website, www.icobrien.com, “Education Matters”, is where my Posts originate, and are continually revised and updated.  This is where my view, ideas, and experiences on all matters Education can be found.

 

 

See my LinkedIn site for further information

https://ie.linkedin.com/in/educationbelongs2all

 

 


 

 

 

If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly. If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite! If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.

 

I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear, unambiguous, content and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!