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