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Monday, August 30 2021

Competence V's Warmth

At the beginning of most teacher’s careers some wise veteran will give the well-worn advice – ‘start in tough, let them know you’re in charge and then you can ease off’.  The idea is to show the kids who’s the boss in the classroom.  This advice holds some truth, you are the teacher and you should be the leader in the classroom but this ‘being tough’ can be counter-productive especially for young children and those who have a poor sense of self resulting from abuse and/or neglect.


From the very first time you meet a new class you have to be a professional teacher and this means you have to ‘teach’ the kids you have in front of you; you have to provide the optimum environment for all the children.  That environment consists of four factors that underpin a successful learning experience.  Each is important but some more than others depending on the maturity of the student. The diagram below illustrates the relationship between these factors where:

  • Pedagogy – This is the lesson content, style of delivery, assessment, etc. those things you should learn in preservice training.
  • Structure – This is the system of predictable consequences for the behaviour that is on display.  That behaviour includes the use of appropriate social skills as well application to set tasks. 
  • Expectations – In an effective classroom everyone knows what to expect, that is the standards of behaviour and work effort.
  • Relationships – Although last on this list, relationships is the most important for developing children, particularly those whose history of abuse/ neglect makes issues of trust tenuous.


(These factors are featured throughout the over 170 past Newsletters but ones for a quick review are:

  • Relationships               26February 2018
  • Creating Structure      12 August 2019 
  • Expectations                17 February 2020)


If you look at the four characteristics three would come under a broad heading of competence, pedagogy, followed by structure and expectation and the relationships represented as the emotional warmth or emotional competence between the student and the teacher.  These are shown below.

If you ask people if they had a teacher that really inspired them most, not all will be able to identify that special person that inspired them and if questioned about why you generally get answers like ‘they believed in me’!  


This connection is particularly important for younger students, they are the more in need of the teacher accepting them.  Schools do this quite well with kindergarten teachers providing a very pastoral approach to their student and as they mature the relationship between the teacher and student evolves into connection with their peers becoming more important.  By the time students are in their final years the subject competence of the teacher becomes much more important.  The following graph illustrates this point.


However, and this is important for those following our work, students who have suffered a history of abuse and/or neglect, do not follow this orderly progression.  They rarely, if ever experience a warm attachment with those who should provide it. 


Having these students in your class presents you with a great challenge.  These kids are hard to like, their behaviour often appals others and so, you need to discipline yourself to accept them unconditionally.  Applying the structure and expectations, the environmental competence allows you to do this.  These kids will ‘break the rules’ but the application of structure and expectations lets you reject the behaviour while completely accepting the child.


Even if you can do, this these kids will fight you at every turn.  They are suspicious of anyone who shows kindness; they are hypervigilant looking to avoid being disappointed by others.  Too often, people try to support them but easily give up and reject them. 


If the teacher is informed and motivated enough they can engage the student and a warm relationship can develop.  When this happens, they will follow the same trajectory as most kids, that is they may be thirteen when they start to trust but they can build from there.  The trust required can only be gained over a long period of time so you need to hang in with them for longer than they expect!


The importance of this connection between warmth and competency is not confined to the classroom, although I would say it is critical in the classroom it is considered essential in all activities where leadership is involved.  Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School points out that workers require their leaders to be both warm and competent but the warmth must come first.  The illustration below is a modification of the model she and her colleagues presented.

This shows that:

  • Teachers high on warmth and competence are appreciated by the students
  • Teachers that are high on warmth but are incompetent disappoint the students
  • Teachers who are competent but lack attachment create resentment because the students don’t think they care
  • Teachers who are incompetent and detached are disliked by the students


 It’s worth reviewing the things I think underpin a professional relationship a teacher can have with their student. These are:

  • Consistency, students get a sense of security and control if they can trust that they will know what happens when they make a mistake
  • Mutual trust and respect – this is paramount in building positive relationships
  • Understanding and meeting students’ needs
  • Taking the time to communicate and this does not only mean talking to them but actively listen to what they have to say
  • Maintaining consistently high standards in your behaviour
  • Responding to and nurturing a child’s passions or talents
  • Not taking setbacks personally
  • Showing vulnerability – show that you are not perfect and accept the consequences of your mistakes

So, returning to that ‘wise advice’ given to so many beginning teachers, ‘starting hard and establishing your authority before you show your warmth’ is not the best way to start with any class or student.  Sure, this approach will work for older, resilient students but for youngsters, and those damaged students, being tough risks losing the chance to make that emotional connection and you might never get this back. 


Always let your warmth come through from the beginning BUT always understand you have to set up all your competencies, pedagogy, structure and expectations.  This takes time and while you do this the relationships will hold everyone together!

Posted by: AT 09:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Monday, August 23 2021

Rewards and Punishments

Controlling people’s behaviour has been a quest by those who seek to have others behave the way they prefer.  Throughout time punishment was seen to be the preferred option, being able to punish infers you are more ‘powerful’ than those you wish to control.  This feeling of superiority is intoxicating but unrealistic.  You are never better, or worse than anyone else!


Throughout history punishment was often extremely cruel particularly in the dark ages where the most hideous forms were handed out to ensure the peasants conformed!  As we became more ‘civilised’ those ‘in charge’ witnessed the malice in punishing and started to try the opposite approach, reward those who conformed.  Even today you hear managers say things like ‘we’ll take the carrot/stick’ approach to solve the problem.  One of the best bits of advice I every received was you can’t make anyone do what you want them to do so, unfortunately, both rewards and punishments will fail in the long run.


It was easy to believe that rewards and punishments work, after all if I had to do my homework or get the cane, doing the homework seemed a choice that suited me.   But, that’s the reason rewards and punishments are only marginally successful.  I know plenty of times I didn’t do my homework and got the cane.  The reason was I chose to spend my time more productively while understanding the cost involved – stinging fingers.  


In the 1960’s, Skinnerian psychology developed a significant influence on education theory, particularly in rewards and punishments.  He believed that changes in behaviour are the result of an individual’s response to events that occur in the environment.  I agree with this observation with one significant difference and that is with Skinner the manipulation is based on the idea that the person who wants control defines that environment.  The student will conform to the beliefs of the teacher.  I contend that our memories and beliefs define the environment and that is the way we decide what is best to do for us in the presenting circumstances.


As a young teacher, I remember students being hit, caned when they misbehaved and given early marks, certificates, etc. when they did the ‘right thing.'  This idea did meet Skinner's requirements but limited moulding of the behaviour of students.  Of course, most students will act to get a reward or avoid punishment, but the driving force of a student's internal motivation can over-ride this.  If we want to change this internal motivation, it will require the child to take responsibility.  The only real discipline is self-discipline.  



Punishment is an imposition of power-over ‘another' person, the teacher over the student.  This intervention is an expression of authority by the teacher who assumes the responsibility for behaviour in the classroom.  This power-over limits the options for the student when modifying their behaviour. The student is disempowered, and for those students with severe behaviour disabilities, this reinforces their feelings of inadequacy. For those students who are struggling the use of punishment is associated with blame and only reinforces their weak sense of self.


In my experience punishment is often used because the behaviour of the student has threatened the teacher.  Students’ behaviour can be very offensive and can threaten those around them.  Often the punishment dealt out is a form of revenge resulting from the teacher’s open or concealed anger. 


Using punishment as a control mechanism will result in the following:

  • Teaches the student what not to do
  • Diverts student’s attention from intended lesson
  • It focuses the student’s attention on how not to get ‘caught’
  • Teaches students to be punitive towards others
  • Eliminates risk taking, students will not take a chance on getting things wrong



Criticizing teachers for using rewards to motivate students is not a straight forward proposition.  In the past, when I challenged teachers for using rewards, I was invariably met with enthusiastic protests.  Giving kids something, they like for doing something you want them to do seems to be a win/win situation, and I agree that in the short term it probably is.  But I challenge this practice to have a long-term benefit for the children. 


Using rewards as the goal of the lesson significantly changes the focus of the lesson.  The real objective of any lesson, including learning how to behave appropriately is the value of what is learned not what you get if you conform.  Reward focused management, in reality, is no better than the use of punishment.


The use of rewards results in the following:

  • Creates an attitude that learning has no intrinsic value, you only learn to get something
  • Stifles creativity, as with punishments it eliminates risk taking essential for creativity
  • Creates reward driven people, what’s in it for me
  • Validates manipulation, you can buy anything
  • Decreases self-directed learning.  Students give the teacher what they want


The elemental message is that the subject of the lesson has no intrinsic value.  The kids do the work for the reward not to learn the content.  Instead of becoming inquisitive they become reward driven.  This approach eliminates risk-taking, stifles creativity and like punishment the teacher is the focus of the behaviour, not the student.  Students will not become self-directed learners in the future.


Having said that I am fully aware that working with students who are disengaged from learning the use of rewards, certainly not punishment can be used to ‘capture' a student’s interest.  Rewards at least can make the student feel good for a short time, and this gives us a window of opportunity to begin to engage them in education.


For extremely damaged students the simplest of rewards can be enough to begin this process.  In the illustration below, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs there is a pyramid of rewards that start with those that satisfy student’s primary needs.  This type of reward would not be of any use but for the most extreme cases.


The use of tokens, certificates are the most popular reward systems and are used extensively even in the Senior Years of schooling, and this method of motivation is used in the very highest levels of the academic world.  Every year we see the awarding of Certificates of Achievement most of which remain in the filing cabinet only to be accessed when constructing a Resume.


Ask any successful self-directed student how important these are you will most likely get a ‘not very’ response.  All too often the Certificates’ are for the parents and grand-parents.


The next level, activities or privilege moves from a token-style reward to a reward that provides a benefit for the student.  This type of reward is still toxic but is consumed within the immediate time and not kept as a reminder.


Above this, we move into the relationship zone where praise is used, any reward depends on the connection between the teacher and student (See Newsletter - The Danger of Praise - 12 September 2018).  On the surface, this is not a ‘bad' thing, but there is a real danger that in this one the teacher's approval can become the prize.  There is a temptation that the teacher will exploit this.


Of course, we need to teach he students that their actions do have consequences but these need to be linked to the behaviour not the person who ‘delivers’ the ‘consequences (see Newsletter - Consequences not Punishment or Reward – 2 April, 2018).

Posted by: AT 09:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, August 18 2021

Girls - They are Different

In the last newsletter we discussed the Queen Bee incidents as a form of bullying and manipulation.  Initially it could be thought that the difference is cultural, girls and boys have been taught to behave that way.   We give boys aggressive toys and girls things like dolls and toy kitchens to prepare them for their future roles.  Or maybe we just see what we expect to see, boys being boys and girls being girls. Despite this inclination to dismiss differences except on the grounds of an undeniable misogynistic norms of society I contend there is an evolutionary history that has resulted in differing responses to stress.


If we accept that early childhood abuse and the consequential Post Traumatic Stress Disorders drives dysfunctional behaviour then we need to look at some information.  When you study the school level data around abuse and dysfunctional behaviour, despite the incidents for abuse being higher for girls than boys, the number of boys being suspended or placed in a specialist setting far outweighs that of girls.  This is because the boys act out, are aggressive while the girls internalize, are compliant.   The reality is there is a difference that is impossible to ignore.


The best explanation I have heard about this difference is an evolutionary view that in early times, once humans generally became the dominant species one of the greatest threats for survival was attack from another tribe.  When this occurred, the victors would kill the males and take the women and children as trophies.  Sadly, this practice has echoes in modern conflicts where atrocities such as the killings in Bosnia were predominantly of males and the recent incidents of the abduction of school girls in Africa reflect this difference.


When you examine the suspension data in schools, the boys do outnumber the girls across the age ranges but at the onset of puberty, the time we move from childhood, the number of boys suspended for aggressive behaviour dramatically increases.  This implies that for the best chance of survival the children of both genders have adapted certain behaviours; women would become compliant and the men fight or flight.  Not always were male children taken in some instances they were also killed.  This behaviour is not confined to our species; it is common practice in a lot of herding animals such as the great apes and lions.


One of the tragedies of this ‘difference’ is that despite suffering more abuse the girls are neglected.  Because the boy’s behaviour demands attention the bulk of the resources provided for dysfunctional students are focused on dealing with boys.  As a teacher, a compliant girl frozen in her mind, is so much easier to deal with than a boy who is abusing you.  However, both boys and girls are in serious need of attention and support but only boys tend to get it.


This explains why the girls use more covert, passive methods to get their needs met albeit in dysfunctional ways.


Although we referred to some of the tactics when discussing the Queen Bee phenomena these are not only used for that social arrangement, the girls can use them in isolation.  The following is some of the ways they are used:

Put Downs

  • These can be a judgmental remark or a passive gesture where the opinion of one girl is ignored. Most effective when carried out in front of the whole group.
  • Making jokes that are funny to everyone else but not the victim.  When challenged instigator often appears indignant, “Can’t they just take a joke?”


  • Any type of physical, social or psychological rejection is hurtful to the victim.  It has been demonstrated that the same parts of the brain are activated as when they are physically hurt.
  • The cold shoulder, this is subtle and therefore effective. Easy for the instigator to deny any involvement.  Another way to achieve this is to attract the victim’s friends away by welcoming them into what appears to be a more attractive group.


  • Destroy the girl’s network of friends isolating her.  The easiest for adolescent girls is to destroy her sexual reputation.  The use of technology has made this so much easier to do and the lack of direct contact somehow makes the aggressors more blazon in their attacks.


Attachment is undoubtedly one of our most powerful drives and during these adolescent years these are in a state of flux.  It is a time when we move away from our parental homes and a major instinct is to begin to search for a partner.  This begins with the formation the group that we think reflects our needs.  As mentioned at the beginning girls and boys are different, that is not to say boys have it easy to establish these attachments but I would contend that their ‘roles’ are more defined, girls have to work within their cohort to find where they fit.


For girls with a history of abuse and neglect this means they come to the cohort already at a great disadvantage.  Their sense of shame (see Newsletter 14 - Toxic Shame – 3 July 2017) makes them believe they are not as good as the other girls and will always be vulnerable.  However, all girls will benefit from being taught the dynamics of group interaction and using the Queen Bee as a model we can make all the girls aware of the dynamics of relationships.


Some of the ‘topics’ can be:

  • ‘Good popularity’, what is it and how is it different from ‘bad popularity’?
  • Fear is not the same as friendship
  • The need to respect each other’s right to a safe, secure and happy learning environment
  • What are the characteristics of the girl everyone wants to be. Discuss what is right, and wrong with this
  • What are the characteristics of the girl everyone does not want to be. Discuss what is right, and wrong with this


Throughout these Newsletters I promote the belief that happy, safe and secure students are better learners and will succeed at school.  At my last school we ran a program exclusively for the girls which included surveys, meetings with parents and placing those girls identified as playing the roles in the Queen Bee Model and teaching each group about the dynamics and consequences of their behaviour.  This was extremely successful except for those who were identified as ‘Queens’.  They showed little or no remorse and were quite satisfied to be identified as the ‘top’ even if it was top of a toxic grouping.  I suspect other drives are at play with these girls.


Another thing we did at my school and suggest all schools should adopt this policy.  Every proactive program we initiated to address antisocial behaviour had to have at least equal numbers of girls and boys.  This meant we had to learn to identify those girls who hid their suffering as opposed to the boys who readily demonstrated theirs with acting out behaviour.  Girls do get abused more than boys and in our patriarchal society girls get less chance to access help.  Great teachers know this and all teachers should know this!

Posted by: AT 07:56 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 09 2021

The Queen Bee

In our last newsletter we discussed indirect bullying as a more passive form of manipulation of others through aggression.  This week I want to discuss a more specific form of bullying used primarily by girls.  Although, there is some point of view that question gender difference I will contend that, at this time there is a difference in the expression of aggression and that difference is evidenced in the imbalance between boys and girls in suspension data and enrolment at ‘behaviour’ schools.  That is not to say there is a proportion who adopt behaviours that are not customary to their gender and I suspect, over time adjustment to the, albeit slow changing of our environment in regards to equity this imbalance will evolve.  But, for now the discussion is about a specific behaviour of girls.


This work was first discussed by Rosalind Wiseman in her 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes and this was followed up by Valarie E Besag Understanding Girl’s Friendships, Fights and Feuds.  In my work with girls at my last school we produced a program under the supervision of an outstanding teacher, Fiona Bell that attempted to help alleviate this problem with some success and some interesting observations I will share.


The underlying feature of the queen bee phenomena is fear and control and the way this is achieved is through the exploitation of the dynamics of cliques.  Cliques are complex and everyone with them has a function.  These positions are hierarchical with the power concentrated towards the apex of the group, the Queen.  These positions are not static but girls can move up or down but for those with a poor sense of themselves they are really stuck in the one position.


The Queen

Wiseman describes the queen as “a combination of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and Barbie.”  The queen is popular, usually ‘pretty’ and has a level of personal power that allows her to dominate others including boys.  Others do what she wants, she reigns supreme.  In our work, we identified what we called ‘hives’ and discussed the role each had in the hierarchy.  The group of ‘Queens’ saw no problem with what they were doing and if anything formed a very unhealthy elite within the school.


The power rests in her ability to isolate and exclude others.  The fear of rejection is her weapon, she can easily enmesh or exclude and will do so to other individuals as the situation requires.  The victims are in a state of unease not knowing how to know just where they fit.  These girls are skilled at either manipulating the teacher or slipping under their radar.  When challenged they are reluctant to take responsibility for their actions.


Being Queen comes with a cost.  Although they gain power and attention their position requires constant commitment and this can make them feel isolated and trapped in their ‘image’, they lose their sense of self.


The Sidekick

This is the deputy sheriff, the 2IC of the hive.  The Side Kick mimics the actions of the queen making sure she doesn’t overstep her position.  In a sense she does the dirty work for the queen thus placing some distance away from the ‘crime’ for the queen. 

Although any challenge to the queen may come from the Side Kick this would be risky and so she is happy to take orders form the queen.  She gains a sense of power form the queen but at the expense of expressing any opinions of her own.


The Banker

The position of the Banker is interesting.  This girl uses information as currency to acquire her position in the group.  She gathers ‘secrets’ and ‘gossip’ treating everyone as her confident, she is friends with everyone.  Then she uses this intelligence to consolidate her position. 


Bankers are good strategists and even the queen is reluctant to upset her.  Her information gives her power and security; she is rarely threatened or excluded but although she may appear harmless the girls all sense the danger she poses.


The Banker plays a dangerous role because she becomes vulnerable to everyone and, if exposed the trust she trades in is lost.


The Floater

Of all the members of the group, The Floater is probably the only authentic one.  She is friends with everyone and easily moves amongst them.  Because she doesn’t base her self-worth on the acceptance of others she is comfortable within herself. 


Her peers like her and she does have influence over others but she never uses it against others, she is always positive.


The Floater has the ideal position and if anyone can challenge the queen it is this girl.


Torn Bystander

The Torn Bystander is an insecure member of the group.  She is desperate to belong and gives up any sense of independence for the sake of keeping the status quo in place.  She will apologise for the Queen and the Side Kick’s behaviour even if she knows she is on the wrong side of a disagreement.  This creates a conflict for the Torn Bystander as she is not good at saying no to her friends.


This desperation to keep the group together means she has to give up any sense of personal power.


The Pleaser / Wannabe

These are the foot soldiers of the Queen and Side Kick because they will do anything for the Queen so they belong to the group.  Their weakness is the fear they have on disapproval.  The opinions of the more influential members of the group are more important than their own.


This rejection of their own importance for the sake of being accepted makes these girls feel insecure and have trouble developing effective boundaries.


The Target

This is the victim, the person on whom the Queen and Side Kick can demonstrate their power.  The Victim can be a member of the group or an outsider, it doesn’t matter.  All that does matter is that she is humiliated and excluded.  The result is a feeling of helplessness with nowhere to turn for support.  Any girl who does feel an empathy for her risks the same treatment.


The Victim may, or may not try to mask the feelings she has over the rejection, she might say she doesn’t care but the Queen picks her Victims well knowing they are not likely to fight back.


In the next Newsletter I will discuss the particular tactics the girls use to establish control over others and how to support girls who become the victims of the Queen.







Posted by: AT 10:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 02 2021

Indirect Bullying

The first two Newsletters in this series addressed a major problem in most schools – bullying (There’s More to Bullying than Meets the Eye – 21 March 2017 and Bullying and Power – 27 March 2017).  I was recently going back through my work and I was reminded about the phenomena of Indirect Bullying presented by Anna Wallace who was at the UTS Psychology Unit.


There are many definitions of bullying and the NSW Department’s definition sums it up in the following way.  Bullying behaviour has three key features:

  • It involves the intentional misuse of power in a relationship
  • It is ongoing and repeated
  • It involves behaviours that can cause harm

It is relatively easy to identify direct bullying, when you see it, it is over and is directed at the victim.  Of course, direct bullying does happen in the playground and before or after school and it is not easy to eradicate.  The advantage in dealing with direct bullying is the perpetrator really has no defence when their behaviour is exposed.


Indirect bullying can be expressed openly but more likely to be a sneaky attack on another’s self-esteem or social relationships.  In most cases, all aggression is designed to get the other person to change their behaviour, there are exceptions with students diagnosed with narcissism or socio/psychopathy; dominating others is their primary drive.  However, bullying is a cover for those who are being challenged by the presence of another and they behave in a way that they hope will force the ‘victim’ to change.  Those who feel superior to others will directly attack them with threats of physical or psychological aggression.  There is no real subtlety in their behaviour.


Indirect bullying more often than not enlists the support of others.  They do this by:

  • Talking About the Victim – gossiping, spreading rumours and breaking confidences, they do this in a way they know the victim will find out.
  • Exclusion – They commandeer the group to ignore the victim, hang out in a ‘special’ part of the playground, etc.  Exclusion is an extremely powerful technique and taken to extremes will devastate the victim.

The silent treatment is another classic attack.  How can I be in trouble because I didn’t speak to him/her?

  • The ‘Death Stare’ – Every teacher worth their salt has had a student complain that another child in the room was ‘looking at me’!  This non-verbal behaviour seems ridiculous but the effects of being stared at are damaging.  The easy advice is to tell them to ignore it but that won’t solve the problem.  Along with this non-verbal behaviour is the use of sarcasm, ‘why would I look at you’ and when the teacher’s back is turned they use an intimidating gesture!
  • Social Media – the telephone has been around for years and the prank call has been a weapon for bullies however, the explosion of social media and the almost universal ownership of mobile phones provides the ‘perfect’ medium for indirect bullying.  All the techniques mentioned above are catered for through all of the media platforms.

If there is an ‘advantage’ to be found in the use of social media is that victims can and should collect the messages, they can use a ‘screen shot’ of the offending message and present it as evidence.


Dealing with indirect bullying is difficult for the teacher.  In a class of over twenty there is plenty of opportunity for the most determined bully to make a move on their victim without the teacher knowing.  It is also difficult for the teacher to understand just how damaging it is for the victim.  As an adult, receiving a ‘death stare’ from a child should not be threatening.  However, one thing we often overlook when dealing with aggression towards a child is the difference in physical presence between the perpetrator and victim.  I use the following example when presenting workshops on child abuse.  As a full-size adult (say about 1.8 metres tall) you go and stand under a basketball hoop and then imagine someone about 3.0 metres, fill out in proportion with muscles, etc. was attacking, you would be scared.  For children the contrast is even more frightening. The point is we should never under estimate how vulnerable little kids are, not just physically but psychologically.  Never dismiss things like the ‘death stare’.


Teachers understand that physical and verbal assaults or forcing people to do things they don’t want to do is bullying!  There is less agreement about the seriousness of name calling, gossip or non-verbal behaviour.  They agree this is not good but, in some cases, they feel dealing with this level of bullying is not their ‘business’ it is part of ‘toughening-up’ and think the kids should learn to sort out these behaviours.


There is an assumption that all kids come with the same level of resilience and healthy sense of self.  Followers of these Newsletters understand that so many of our children come to the classroom already suffering a range of mental health issues we unite under the designation of suffering toxic shame (see Toxic Shame – 31 August 2020).  These kids have the common belief that they are bad and not deserving of belonging.  Being excluded by others adds to this destructive belief pattern and takes them away from any form of rehabilitation.


This is not to suggest that children with a history of abuse are not capable of bullying.  On the contrary they can be unrelenting in their attacks on others.  You have to remember ‘in most cases bullying is a cover’ for how the obvious success of a particular student will show-up the bully’s insecurities.  This is not an excuse for bullies but a clue for dealing with them.


So, what to do.  First the teacher should teach their class about bullying, what it is, what people do it and the damage it can do.  The students need to understand that bullying is real and what might be happening to them now is not a ‘unique’ behaviour.


The next thing I would do is teach the kids about boundaries, I would contend that teaching effective boundaries to your students would provide them with one of the most powerful defence mechanisms they could have (see Teaching Practical Boundaries – 31 July 2017).  It would pay to remind us of what these are:


1. Recognition that your Boundaries are being Challenged

Be conscious of your feelings towards the class and the lesson. If you can sense your feelings are changing, becoming frustrated or worried your boundary is being challenged; this change of feelings is a ‘stress attack’.


2. Actively Stay Calm

We are well aware that if we become too stressed we lose our objectivity but be grateful for the initial onset because it alerts you that there is a problem.

It is important that you learn to quickly control that stress.  There are many techniques to learn how to evoke a quick relaxation response. The use of neuro- linguistic programming is excellent for this however any short relaxation technique followed by the establishment of an associated cue (the anchor) will do.


3. Ask the Questions

  • ‘What is really happening’?  This is often not the obvious event.
  • ‘Who is responsible’?
    • If ‘me’ then I must take responsibility, take action to address the cause of the stress.
    • If not ‘me’ then I ask a further two questions:
      • ‘What is causing the attack’?
      • 'What do I have to do to change this situation in the long run’?

4. Take Action

Assert your right without threatening the other person.  You can use the statements:

  • ‘When you ……’
  • ‘I feel…………….’
  • ‘Because………’

Other follow-up newsletters on boundaries are:

  • Boundary Considerations – 22 October 2018
  • Respecting Other’s Boundaries – 26 November 2018


Bullying occurs across our community, in schools, work places and homes.  Teaching kids to stand-up to bullies in an appropriate way not only builds their sense of self it also strengthens the bonds across our community.

Posted by: AT 11:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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The principals of the company have had long careers in education with a combined total of eighty-one years service.  After starting as mainstream teachers they both moved into careers in providing support for students with severe behaviours.

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