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The Ring of Valor: Bullying is an application program of the core The Ring of Valor found in the book Raising Courageous Kids: Eight Steps to Practical Heroism (Sorin Books) by Charles A. Smith. Educators who want to introduce the application program to prevent and manage bullying to their fifth and sixth graders should begin with the core curriculum.

The Ring of Valor: Bullying is based on the following fundamental principles.

Bullying is repeated intentional cruelty
Not all conflict is bullying. We have to understand that social control forces are at work within all peer groups. Leaders emerge and attempt to influence behavior. Children tease and make demands of each other. If we intervened every time there was an argument between children, we would deprive them of the opportunity to deal with conflict. When the normal process of peer control turns ugly with predatory brutality, we have to intervene in such a way to avoid making matters worse.

Focus on behavior not the labels
Words like “bully” and “victim” are convenient shorthand when discussing behavior. These labels should never be use to identify a child as a person. To tell a child, “You are a bully” can be devastating. A label defines who a child is, not what a child does. Once children define themselves in this way, they may become blind to opportunities to change. A focus on behavior (“You chose to pick on her, call her names, and laugh at her”) sets the stage for learning a different way to act. The same is true when we label someone as a “victim.”

Children are the solution
Bullying is a social control phenomenon within the peer group. Adults have an important sideline role as teachers, cheerleaders, and disciplinarians. Nevertheless, we are essentially on the sidelines. Children themselves have the primary responsibility and the power for changing bullying. Bullying exists when targets are willing to be victims and onlookers remain passive. Children themselves have to take the primary role in stopping bullying.

Shift focus away from the bully to the target and audience.
To deprive "bullies" of what they want, the target must refuse to be a victim and onlookers must be ready to intervene when necessary. Targets who cry, run away, depend on adults for help, lose their temper, and generally succumb to panic or rage provide the oxygen that sustains bullying. So do onlookers who remain passive in the face of cruelty. We should not treat bullying as a spectator sport. Just as a match cannot ignite without oxygen, bullying cannot exist without victims and the intimidation or approval of an audience.

The primary goal is courage
Courage is the keystone quality necessary to achieve a solution to bullying. Courage is a central cohesive force of support and stability that will give children (or anyone) the strength to face cruelty by choosing resistance or endurance depending on circumstances. For more information on courage, visit my website, Raising Courageous Kids based on my book of the same name.

Children learn courage in authoritative communities
Authoritative communities can be families, schools, and neighborhoods. Nurturing attributes of courage like caring, integrity, and honor is the responsibility of everyone who touches the lives of children, from a parent to the crossing guard a child meets on the way to school. Parents are in the prime position of influence, but they cannot do it alone. Success requires cooperation. I suggest the focus on targets and onlookers because our chances of success are greater with those two groups than with the bullies themselves.


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Author Informationhttp://www.ksu.edu/wwparent/programs/bullying/perspective.htm-- Revised: June 15, 2005
Copyright © 1996-2005 Charles A. Smith. All rights reserved.