Trinity County Office of Education
Sarah Supahan – County Superintendent of Schools
www.tcoek12.org • (530) 623-2861
How to Prevent Bullying in Schools
While some may prefer punishing students who bully, and others think that just improving school climate is the answer, a recent survey finds another factor that may help curb bullying: A sense of belonging.
"The more a child feels like they can connect with their family, their peers, and their school, the less likely they are to engage in bullying behavior," said Christopher Slaten, co-investigator for the survey and professor for the University of Missouri's College of Education.
The researchers surveyed over 900 students from rural communities throughout the United States. It asked students about their perceptions of belonging among their family, their peers, and in their schools. They were asked if they agreed or disagreed with statements such as: "My family members are interested in the same things that I'm interested in," and, "There's a teacher or staff member at my school who accepts me for who I am”. The survey also asked the participants if they like making others upset because it was fun (which is bullying behavior).
The research team found a connection between students' relationships at home, their relationships at school, and bullying behaviors. They found that if students feel like they belong at home, then they're more likely to feel like they belong at school, and this makes them less likely to bully others.
The research also suggests that parents should personally engage with their children to not only help improve relationships at home, but also to help parents know what's really happening at school. One way to do this is to ask specific questions about school. Rather than asking, “How was your day?”, “What did you do in school?” try asking specific questions such as, “Who do you talk to on the bus?”, “Do you sit with the same kids every day?” “Have you ever sat alone?” “Does anyone ever get picked on?” “Has that ever happened to you?” “Who did you play with at recess today?” “Does anyone ever get left out of a game at recess?” These types of questions will help parents to understand whether or not a child is involved in bullying, either as the victim or the perpetrator, or even if they witness bullying a lot at school.
Social skills and communication skills are two of the biggest predictors of bullying involvement, meaning that kids that have really strong social and communication skills are less likely to be involved in bullying. Rather than a stern talk about bad behavior, parents should provide specific praise to improve their child's skills in these areas.
According to research performed by Vanderbilt University, some of the top social and communication skills are: 1) listening to others, 2) taking turns when talking, 3) asking for help, 4) being responsible for your behavior, 5) cooperating, 6) doing nice things for others.
For more information, see the following websites for questions to ask children, how to recognize the signs of bullying, and how to support positive social skills.