In Bullying Resources

Challenging Behaviour: The Bullying Connection

Definition Of Challenging Behaviour

There are many types of challenging behaviour which kids exhibit from time to time. These behaviours can vary from mild to severe and there are multiple causes for them. Some of what kids do when exhibiting these behaviors is a normal part of growing up and challenging the status quo. But others, much more deviant in nature, must be kept in check by adults before the problem becomes more severe and threatens to create more serious problems for the child and your family.

When these behaviours cross over into the school environment, it can also create additional problems at school, and sometimes this is exhibited in the form of bullying.

How Challenging Behaviour Turns To Bullying

The connection between challenging behaviour and bullying makes sense due to the fact that the kid who bully others is challenging the rules, first of all. They feel that the rules do not apply to them, or that they are somehow allowed to cross the lines of respect and take advantage of others. Not all kids who exhibit such behaviors bully others, but many do.

The Essence Of Challenging Behavior

The essence of the challenging behaviours which teachers and administrators see involves a child who is not happy with the way things are and strives to change them. This is not always a bad thing in and of itself. Think of times in history when more people should have challenged the status quo, (such as during the Nazi regime or the realm of Hitler, for example). There are times to stand up and times to be quiet and accept the way things are. But the kid who challenges frequently is someone who has a lot of complaints with the way others act or react and wants things to be different. And, sometimes, this motivates them to bully others.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying and the dynamics behind it involve a person who has chosen to pick out others to harass or belittle, for whatever reasons they see fit. This can be due to the way they look, how they dress, their race or beliefs, or a host of other factors which make the bully feel they are justified in their actions. Bullying can involve any of the following behaviours:

This is not meant to be an extensive or complete list by any means, and there are other behaviours which could be considered bullying. But this is a good frame of reference regarding the kind of bullying that applies to challenging behaviour.

It is important to teach kids that there are times when challenges are okay, and times when they are not acceptable. The following two paragraphs illustrate the difference.

When Challenging Behaviour Is Okay

When it becomes necessary to defend one’s honor, stand up for what one believes, or to fight for an important cause, such as politically, religiously, or otherwise, it is okay to challenge the status quo. In business, many entrepreneurs challenged what was then considered the “normal way” to do things, which resulted in a new and innovative product or idea. And anytime someone or a group of people is being treated wrongly, it is the responsibility of the rest of us to challenge these things. There is nothing wrong with this type of challenging behavior and kids should be told this.

When Challenging Behaviour Is Bad

However, challenging behaviour is bad when it is done at the expense of others, when it disrupts the educational process, is disrespectful to teachers or others, or other situations. These situations are self-serving on the part of the perpetrator and do nothing other than creating stress and dismay among those who are at the other end of it.

What Can Be Done?

So, when we see kids exhibiting such problem behaviours, where do we start to solve the problem? Education of the differences of when such challenging acts are acceptable and when they are not is the first step. Kids should be told that when they feel something is “unfair” or unjust, that they can come to you, the school counselor, or others in the school community to help them. This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of school climate-and it would improve the system immensely if people understood how much people (even kids) want to be heard and listened to.

Kids should be allowed to tell why they believe something is unfair or unjust and ask them what they think should be done about it. One place for this type of discussion might be in a group counseling session for kids who need to discuss their issues. Here, in the privacy of the school counselor’s office or class, kids can feel safe to air their grievances without the fear of retaliation or discipline. Such challenging behaviours are not acceptable in the classroom in front of other kids when it undermines the teacher’s ability to keep respect in the classroom. This is why many kids get into trouble in class-by challenging teachers in front of others, where they have no recourse but to put them in their place.

What To Do About Bad Challenging Behaviours

Now that we know the difference between acceptable challenging behaviours and those which are not, what do we do about those kids who are using their need to challenge against other kids in the form of bullying? Consultation with the bully are important, in order to let him or her know that these actions are simply not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Clear guidelines and consequences should be put in place for all to know the consequences of bullying when it occurs. In addition, sometimes verbal or written “contracts” have proven effective with kids who bully, to serve as an agreement between the bully and school administrators or the counselor, in which they agree to show respect to others and try to work on their inappropriate behaviors. In some cases, it has proven successful to reward such students for their efforts when they show vast improvement. But the improvement should come from within and the bully should show a desire to be a better person, and not just to jump through the hoops in order to receive a reward.

Parent Conferences

When bullies refuse to make the changes they should to treat others with respect, sometimes it becomes necessary to take stronger action. Parents, teachers and administrators should work together to try to help both the bully and the bullied victims, so that this sort of behaviour is not repeated. By letting the bully know the seriousness of the offense, and that law enforcement or others could be brought in if it continues, some bullies may retreat from their behaviours for the sake of self-preservation.

Challenging Behaviours Of School Officials

When school officials and parents confront the bully about these bullying behaviours, they are, in fact also exhibiting challenging behaviours as well. They are standing up for a cause (the rights of the victim of bullying) and stating that they will not put up with such behaviours anymore. This may take getting the parents of the bullied child together with the parents of the bully, and may also even include bringing the victim into the conference to face the bully, so that everyone will be on the same page regarding the incidents.

Why Bullies Bully

Bullies do what they do for any number of reasons: to try to gain popularity with peers, to obtain some sort of power or to feel superior. Some of these causes may be of a psychological nature, while others may be due to the need to challenge the system or others who they feel are “under them.” Whatever the reason, it is wrong. And it it up to others around the bully to stop the cycle and communicate the message that bullying is never okay.

Resources For You

Kids face a lot of challenges and sometimes the reasons for their challenging behaviour is to protect themselves from other kids or to feel a sense of power. Talk to your child about the importance of respecting others and encourage them to go to school staff members when they feel something is not fair.

Continue to work at home with your child and create an environment of open communication, so that your child will always feel free to discuss their problems with you.

There are many resources you can turn to, including school officials, Parent/Teacher groups, and others to help you combat bullying, as well as other childhood problems. If your child exhibits challenging behaviors, there is help for you as a parent. Read research on the topic and see what the experts think about handling your strong-willed child. Most of all, talk to other parents and get involved in school activities and your child’s life. It will pay off.

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