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.





Autumn 2019




Iseult Catherine O'Brien

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

A Member of The Tutors' Association



The topics covered below are ~








HOW DOES YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL HANDLE BULLYING?  Ana Kriégel case turns spotlight on how schools deal with bullying





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









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.




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, 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?






Please see my Post, 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. 






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.





I have three siblings and all of us were beaten mercilessly in junior school.  Many years later when we came back 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 the other with 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 (PGC) 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.



PGC 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.  PGC can help with ideas that worked for them in school and in work.  Talking to other PGCs is always a useful exercise.



See Jenny Sherlock's article

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

in the next section.



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)


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.





In my Post, “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 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.







The following comes from 'Child Crisis Arizona'.


https://childcrisisaz.org/contact/ |




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.





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.




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.




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.]




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.]




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.]




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.]









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.  I had also read the Barnardos Ireland Annual School Costs Survey 2017.  It all made for depressing listening and reading.


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




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. 




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 barely exists 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.




I have heard anonymous young people describe their lives on the radio in the 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 have found a business started by a woman whose daughter has autism, and not being 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.  


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?








The full Survey Report is available at https://www.barnardos.ie/media-centre/news/latest-news/school-costs-2017-infographic.html.


With thanks to Barnardos Ireland for their great work, I quote liberally from their “School Costs 2017 – Infographic”.  All the statistics quoted below are from the Survey Report.  1,834 parents responded to their Survey on the cost of sending their offspring to school.  The results are fascinating, and can be found in full at https://www.barnardos.ie/media-centre/news/latest-news/school-costs-2017-infographic.html.




Cost of Starting the School Year in Ireland


*  The average cost of getting a first year secondary student ready for school is €800. 


*  7 per cent of parents are forced to go into debt to cover the cost of school, with some having no choice but to resort to high interest credit card and money lender loans.  


*  6 per cent of primary school parents are asked to pay voluntary contributions to help fund schools - and many are pressured and chased for this money.


*  45 per cent of parents had to forgo other bills or cut back on daily expenses.



While, the Survey results indicate a 10 per cent drop in requests for voluntary contributions at both primary and secondary level compared to 2016, significantly, more parents are being asked to pay the mandatory classroom resources fees.  What a former English teacher of mine would have called “a complete cod!”.




The Survey Found


*  Parents of primary school pupils pay on average between €50 and €100 on books.


*  One-fifth (20%) of parents of secondary school pupils pay in excess of €300.


*  Generic school uniforms are more common at primary level than secondary level.  


*  Parents spend on average €95 on school specific uniforms at primary level,


*  And between €150 and €200 at secondary level.


“There remains a constant expectation that parents will prop up the educational system by having to buy the essentials required for their children to complete the curriculum ie, books, classroom resources, stationery and voluntary contributions.


“June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said, “This year over 1,800 parents took the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey.  Parents are yet again stressed and over-burdened by back to school costs.  It affects so many families, not just those on low incomes.  The impact of these mounting costs mean many parents are forgoing other bills, cutting back on daily expenses or ending up in debt in order to ensure their children have all they need for the new school year.”


“Many parents were aware of the Minister’s circular (issued in April 2017) to schools to take a more proactive approach in reducing the burden of costs on parents” … “again some schools were more proactive than others and subsequently this variation across schools is a major source of frustration for parents.  The inaction by schools was often seen as a result of lack of funding by the Government to adequately resource the running of the school and thereby passing on some of the savings to the parents.


“Books should be provided free to students, and there should be no examination fees.  Schools expect too much support from parents through fundraising etc, many parents are already hard pressed.  The State should be providing all that is needed in order for a school to function successfully instead of making the school go to the parents.”


Ms. Tinsley, concluded, “Education unlocks potential but the State is denying many children the key because it is failing to see its fundamental role in ensuring the education system is adequately funded to ensure all children have what they need to learn the curriculum.  No other public service has to subsidise their funding to keep the show on the road, so why should the Department of Education expect schools to have to undertake extensive fundraising activities from parents and staff to fund necessities?  Budget 2018 must take the first step towards making education free for all children by providing free books for all pupils in primary school.”


Please read the Results when you get a chance.  They are very interesting in relation to education and deprivation in general, as is much of the work done by Barnardos Ireland.




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.



The Irish Times, Tue, Apr 23, 2019


Jenny Sherlock



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.]





Copyright : Miroslav Pinkava





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




The Irish Times, Tue, Apr 23, 2019.

Jen Hogan



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



As parents, 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 easily accessible online pornography and 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




Thu, Jun 20, 2019, The Irish Times


Carl O'Brien, Education Editor




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 (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 Post, CARE 4 OUR YOUNG PEOPLE which expands on cyber-bullying, including ideas on how to prepare children to face it, and what to do if it is already happening.





Copyright : imagesbavaria







What follows is a largely rewritten and edited version of an article by Joseph Sackswww.tribecaplaytherapy.com.  The article was entitled "29 Ways to Deal with Your ‘Unruly’ Teenager".  The tone and attitude of the article did not chime with my idea of what is currently reasonable, and I omitted a section on flattering teenage daughters ~ young men got no look in, and because it was very dated.  You will notice I have reduced the list to 27 items.


However, I acknowledge Joseph Sacks's work, and especially for bring the work of Haim Ginott to attention.



Famed educator and psychologist of the 1950s, Haim Ginott, developed ideas on the importance of communication and positive relationships with teenagers.  Joseph Sacks clarified some of Ginott’s work with his own ideas based on clinical and classroom experience.


Joseph Sacks asks us to please bear in mind that the following represents a parenting ideal that may be very difficult to achieve, to be patient with yourself and try to implement the following ideas little by little.



1.   Teenagers Crave Self-Determination

Your teen needs to feel independent.  Although limits need to be set, you need to give him or her as much autonomy as possible, within reason.  Too much freedom can be dangerous, but too little can be equally harmful as your teen will feel restricted, resentful, and maybe rebel.  Each teen is unique, and where one child might thrive under your supervision, another may need more independence.  You must be wise and work out what is just the right amount of freedom your teen needs as he or she ages.



2.   Use “Golden Phrases”

Golden phrases empower your teen and encourage him or her to take responsibility.  By saying things like, “You decide”, “Whatever you choose is fine with me”, and “I have confidence you will to make the right decision”, you communicate that you trust your teen. 



We need to let teenagers make their own mistakes.


 It is more important that your teen makes a self-determined choice than one determined by you as the parent.  Your child’s sense of self is at stake, and that may mean you have to let him or her choose, even if you would have chosen differently.



3.  Don’t remind Teens of their Younger Years

You may think about the times when your teen was growing up every day, but he or she would rather not.  Teens are trying to put distance between themselves and their childhood.  Statements like, “Remember when you were …” or “You were so cute when …” make your teen feel like a child at a time when he wants to be treated like an adult.



4.  A Teenager is an Unfinished Product

Your child is growing up, but he or she has some way to go.  He or she has not yet developed and refined character traits, and many important experiences still lie ahead of him or her.  As a result, your teen is bound to make poor choices and mistakes.



 It is your duty as a parent not to point them out!


Your teen may believe you see flaws and shortcomings rather than his or her efforts to learn and grow.  This can be very threatening to your teen’s sense of self.  Not to mention, she or he is probably painfully aware of her or his mistakes anyway and doesn’t need help remembering. 

[The human brain doesn’t mature until around 25-30 years.  ICOB.]



5.   Don’t Try to Prove You’re Right

You may know that you are right in a disagreement with your teen but resist the temptation to prove it.  


When you engage in a battle of wills with your teen, it becomes about more than the issue you were debating.  Your teen’s very sense of self is involved and he or she has too much at stake to give in.  Trying to prove your point only creates resistance.  Instead, be patient and remember that sometimes you must let your teen learn from time and personal experience.



6.  Be Nice!

Many parents who are in a conflict with their teen throw their hands in the air and exclaim, “Of course it’s that way, he’s a teenager!”  The truth, however, is that your relationship with your teen does not need to be this way.  There are parents who have warm, respectful, and relatively conflict-free relationships with their teens.  You can aim to achieve this by following the golden rule.  While it may sound simple, parents often overlook how important it is to BE NICE!  Be nice to your teenager.  Be kind, gentle, forgiving and flexible.  


As much as possible, be a source of positivity to your teen, not stress.  She / he should think, “Mum / Dad always makes me feel good”.  Yes, limits need to be set, but you will be surprised how setting expectations in a nice, thoughtful, way can work wonders for your relationship with your teen.



7.  Don’t Be Bossy

Teenagers hate being bossed.  No-one likes it.  

But there are times when you have to tell your teen what to do, whether or not you think he or she will want to listen.  So, the answer is to keep your instructions to an absolute minimum.  There’s only a certain amount of instruction a teen can handle per day and still feel independent.  Let’s say, just as an example, that your teen can handle five 'commands' per day without feeling bossed around.  You don’t want to waste those.  You want to spend them wisely on important items.  Try to resist the urge to tell him or her what to do on minor matters and save your precious few 'commands' for more important items. 



[I find the idea of a parent / guardian / carer having a notional five commands, per day, per teen, distasteful. It reeks of a desire to control while trying to put on a front of being easy-going. Only a person with a need to control would come up with the suggestion of 'an example, that your teen can handle five 'commands' per day without feeling bossed around' ~ is this an exercise in discovering how much pressure a teenager will accept before rebelling? ICOB.]



[It is always better to ask a teenager to help with folding laundry or preparing vegetables rather than giving an instruction or 'command'.  Sitting together, preparing food for a meal, is a relaxed situation which often ends up involving chats on diverse matters, big or small.  This makes having conversations easier in general.  ICOB.]


Ironically, the fewer instructions your teen hears, the more likely he or she is to comply with the remaining few commands you do issue.  Try spending an afternoon without telling her or him what to do – not even once.  Then, at the end of the day, ask him or her nicely to complete one important task and you will be surprised to see him or her comply.  That is because the relief he or she felt at not being bossed all afternoon gave him or her a sense of self- determination and, therefore, the strength to comply.



8.  Ask Nicely!

When you do want or need to ask your teen to do something, remember to ask nicely.  It’s amazing how many parents bark orders at their teenagers instead of speaking to them politely.  How do you feel when your boss gives you a blunt order?  Teens appreciate being asked nicely just as well as adults do.


Try asking in and easy-going voice, “Would you please wash your hands before we eat?”.



9.  Never Criticise Negatively

Never use negative criticism with your teenager.  Even with the best intentions, criticism is poison to a teen.  It’s supposed to benefit him or her by correcting some sort of fault or mistake, but the damage done to his or her self-esteem far outweighs the benefit.  Additionally, your teen may come to resent you for your criticism, limiting your relationship and how effectively you can reach him.



10.  Praising your Teen

It can feel like your efforts to compliment your teen aren’t registering, or that they are doing more harm than good.  So, how do you praise a teenager?  The key is to avoid praise that is an evaluation, or where your teen may believe his or her value is based on performance.  Statements like, “You’re such a great footballer,” mean well, but they have several drawbacks. 


[Praising someone for the sake of it is always patently insincere and of little value to the recipient.  That kind of praise is usually despised and does not reflect well on the one who gives it.  Often, such empty praise may be seen as a form of pressure to work harder on the matter praised and may be viewed as a back-handed compliment.  ICOB.]


First, these sorts of evaluative statements put pressure on your teen to always live up to an unrealistically high standard, to always be as good or better from now on.  He or she knows he / she can’t meet these expectations and feels bad or like he / she has failed.  Furthermore, this type of praise often feels untrue and insincere.  He or she knows he’s probably not truly a great at sports as he or she makes mistakes often.  Rather than helping him or her focus on his / her successes, excessive praise reminds him or her of mistakes.


Second, disproportionate or over-zealous praise can tempt your teen to accept an over-inflated sense of self which can easily be shot down by a few setbacks.  Instead of praise, try to use the golden tool of describing what you see your teen accomplish.  For example, you might say, “Gosh, you made the catch,” or “I see you practised hard for an hour,” or “You finished all your homework early”.  This frees your teen to make his or her own judgments about him/herself.  This creates true self-esteem, whereas evaluative praise, by contrast, creates a fragile sense of value based on others.


If your teen helps you around the house, instead of saying, “You’re great!” describe what he / she did: “You set the table, that was helpful, thanks”.  The point is to give a realistic picture of the accomplishment, not to glorify your teen.  Too much praise can make a person feel arrogant and uncomfortable.  Describing, on the other hand, leads to a realistic self- image and allows your teen to conclude about her/himself, “I am liked, I am appreciated, I am respected, I am capable”.  This ability to find self-value is true self-esteem.



11.  Give your Teen Privacy

Teenagers need privacy.  You may worry about your teen and want to know what is going on but avoid the temptation to pry too much into their lives.  Giving him / her some space and distance is a mark of respect, and you may even find your teen is more willing to open up.



12.  Don’t Lecture

Teenagers, like everyone else, hate sermons, lectures, and speeches.  Stick to short sentences.  Instead of trying to explain to your teen why he never does his homework, just say, “Bobby, homework, please”.



13.  Don't Futurise

Futurising is when you tell your teen how his or her behavior now will affect the future.  “If you ever want to get a job, you are going to have to learn to be more responsible”, for example.  Or, “What are they going to think of you in college with those table manners?”. 


These types of statements are just negative criticism and insults, which is exactly how your teen will perceive them.  Futurising should be avoided like the plague.



14.   Discuss, Don’t Critique

If your teen has an interest you dislike – or can’t stand – try to express your own tastes rather than offering criticism.  The next time your teen turns on his or her music, for example, avoid groaning or saying, “Turn down that rubbish”.  Instead, acknowledge their selection – “I see you like rap” – and describe what you feel, “I still love Bowie”.  Your teen will appreciate that you had a quick conversation instead of critiquing or dismissing his / her interests.



 15.  Reflect, Don’t Argue

If your teenager complains about your food, try not to argue.  Just reflect his or her complaint back, “Was the soup is too cold for you?  I was rushed today”.  This validates your teen’s experience and enables him or her to deal with it while accepting you were under pressure preparing dinner.  By accepting her / his feelings you make it easier to express her or his appreciation for your cooking and the other day-to-day thing you do for him or her.



16.  Respect your Teen’s Opinions

When your teenager expresses his or her opinion, you need to respect and validate it.  For example, “It sounds like you think the Manchester United aren’t going to make it into the top four this season”.  A young person’s opinions are like a small fire that needs to be carefully nurtured and kept aflame until it can develop into an adult belief system.  You need to show your teenager that it’s okay to disagree with you.  Try to see things from his or her viewpoint.  Never, ever, ridicule or put down your teenager’s opinions.


Be very sparing even when you disagree with your teen.  If he or she expresses an idea you disagree with say, “I’d like to know how you came to that view.  Can you tell me more about it?”  Reflect what your teen said and only then say how you see things differently.


Similarly, if your teen expresses a vague idea and he / she is not completely sure how to get across, help him or her to express ideas more clearly by restating what you understand was meant.  It could turn out you’ve completely misunderstood.  Being listened to and respected by one’s parents develops self-confidence and self-respect.  It helps a teenager turn into a successful adult, and your teenager will appreciate you for this.



17.  Reflect your Teen’s Experience

If your teen has trouble getting out of bed in the morning, reflect to her or him that you understand.  For example, “I know it’s tough getting out of bed on a cold morning.  It would really feel great if we could stay there longer, but up we have to get!”.  This validates your teen’s experience, and the understanding she or he gets may give her / him the strength to get up.



18.  Always take your Teen’s Side

When a teenager comes home reporting a conflict with someone outside the house, don’t take the side of the other person.  Always take the side of your teen, even if you suspect he or she was wrong.  


By taking your teen’s side, he or she will feel more secure and, therefore, more likely to admit mistakes he or she has made.  When he / she comes home bruised from conflict, help and support are what are needed, not criticism or condemnation.  You need to be your teen’s defense team, always on his / her side.


Many parents think their children need them to be tough so they can learn to deal with adversity.  The opposite is true, however, and being warm and supportive is what will give your teen the strength to deal with challenges and uncertainty.



19.  Reflect your Teen’s Feelings

Reflective listening can serve as emotional first aid, helping your teen heal from emotional wounds.  You should always deal with your teen’s emotions before you start giving advice.  


When your teen comes home complaining that someone has wronged him or her, use responses that reflect the feelings they are sharing.  For example, “Oh, that must have been embarrassing”, “Did that made you angry?”, and “You must have resented him for that”.  When your teen sees that you understand how he or she is feeling, it helps diminish some of his or her strong emotional responses.



20.  Never Argue with your Teen’s Feelings

Accept your teenager’s feelings.  Reflect on what they’re experiencing and acknowledge their perceptions.  Never deny your teen’s feelings or experience.



21.  Acknowledge Schoolwork is a Burden

If your teenager complains about his / her schoolwork burden, don’t dismiss the concerns or say, “That’s life”.  Instead, reflect the difficulty back, “I can see you have a lot of work.  That volume of work can seem almost overwhelming when you must get it all done in one day.  Is there anything I can do to help?”.  The value of this type of validation gives your teen the strength to persevere without minimising his / her experience.



22.  Acknowledge your Teen’s Worries

If your teen is worried about a big game or performance, acknowledge his or her concerns.  You might say, “I know it’s scary to go out there and perform in front of all those people.  You may feel like they’re judging you.  Of course you feel nervous, it’s natural”.  This shows you understand how your teen feels and how she or he diffuses anxiety.


[The Bel Canto singer, Tony Bennett, tells a story of being in the wings before a performance and turning to see Frank Sinatra beside him.  He admired Sinatra greatly and told him he always gets very nervous before a performance.  Sinatra nodded and said, the day you’re not nervous is the day you give up performing.  ICOB.]



23.  Never Forbid Feelings

At times, parents may set limits on certain behaviors.  


But we should never place limits on how teenagers are allowed to feel.  


If your teen is angry, allow him or her to experience his or her feelings.  Never forbid, deny or repress an expression of anger.  If your teen does become angry, never make fun of or belittle your teen for his or her response.  


Anger does not go away when you forbid it; it just festers and gets worse.  Tell your teen, “I see you are feeling really angry”, encourage him or her to talk about how he or she is feeling and take time to listen well.



24.   Express Anger without Insult

By the same token as the previous suggestion, when you become angry as a parent you should also express your feelings.  But, the rule is “anger without insult” – you should never attack your teen’s personality.  Express how you feel, “I’m furious, I’m livid, I can’t believe what happened”; but don’t blame, attack, or criticise.  Your teen needs to learn that you are a person who has strong feelings, too.



25.   Don't Attack Mistakes

When your teen does something wrong, don’t attack, criticise, put down, moralise, lecture or give orders or commands.  All these things will put your teen on the defensive and make him or her feel bossed.  


Instead, describe what you see, what you feel and what needs to be done.  Say, “There’s a huge mess in the living room.  It makes me annoyed to see things all over the floor; everything belongs back on the shelves”.  By describing the situation, your feelings and your expectations, you are giving your teen information in a respectful way, letting him or her know you have faith in him or her to behave appropriately.  This type of thoughtful, respectful, communication promotes healing and growth in your relationship with your child, increasing trust.  Remember, anger without insult.




26.  Respond to Inappropriate Behaviour with Expectations

When your teen behaves inappropriately, instead of criticising, ordering, or insulting him or her, state your values and expectations clearly and concisely.  “In our house, we don’t call each other names”, for example.  Or, “In our house, we speak respectfully to one another”. 


Haim Ginott developed the effective idea to write notes or emails to teens to address problems.  Notes are extremely well received: the very fact that you went out of your way to write a note shows tremendous respect for the reader.  Additionally, instead of just blowing off steam and talking off the top of your head, writing a note allows you to plan and prepare what you have to say, making it much easier to control your passion and be constructive in your words.  The written word also lends tremendous importance to what you have to say and it will be taken very seriously.



27.  Hurl Values, Not Insults

Offer feelings, not criticism.  Use “I,” not “you”.  Statements like, “What is the matter with you”, or, “Look what you’ve done”, place judgment and blame.  Instead, describe your own values and experience: “I’m sorry this has happened”, or, “It’s a pity things worked out that way”.  You are making the same point, but you are doing so in a more positive and effective way.







Of Course We can Build a Healthy Relationship with Our Teenagers



Teenagers show respect for their parents when parents show respect for their children! Respect means that we should look for the positive in our teens and appreciate their good qualities and to accept them for the people they are. We should treat them with kindness and consideration, recognising and reflecting their experience.


[Many of us were told in our youths versions of “You must respect me, I’m your father”. We may have been taught ‘to honour our father and mother’, but no-one will truly respect another who doesn’t deserve it as shown by their behaviour and treatment of others, no matter who he or she may be.

 All humans are due respect, but people in authority are on a sticky wicket if they think claiming respect will make it so. ICOB.]




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 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




I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.






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!