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NURTURING POSITIVE POWER: An Antidote to Bullying. Lorna Martin What do we know about the Positive Power?. Contagious Relieves stress Self-fulfilling Cost-effective Supports an equal power base Can be learned at all ages and stages. What do we know about Bullying?.

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Nurturing positive power an antidote to bullying


Lorna Martin

What do we know about the positive power
What do we know about the Positive Power?

  • Contagious

  • Relieves stress

  • Self-fulfilling

  • Cost-effective

  • Supports an equal power base

  • Can be learned at all ages and stages

What do we know about bullying
What do we know about Bullying?

  • Bullying involves unequal power and is anti-social

  • Bullying and victimization do not occur in isolation

  • Interventions with the bully and/or victim are necessary but not sufficient for change

  • Bullying is societal and learned

  • Change must be societal, systemic to be effective

What do we know about school safety
What do we know about school safety?

  • Schools have critical incident plans, tragic event protocols, and codes of conduct to assist them when safety is a concern

  • Two rare tragedies (Columbine and Taber) have heightened awareness

  • Schools have strict supervision regimens, causing the classroom to remain one of the safest places for children and youth

Mixed messages on violence
Mixed Messages on Violence

  • Children and youth are bombarded by examples of violence and aggression that lead to success, status, and problem solving:

    • Politicians

    • Media

    • TV, movies, video games

    • War

    • Role-play games

    • Gangs

Mixed messages on violence1
Mixed Messages on Violence

  • Although families are increasingly distressed by:

    • Violent language and explicit violent acts on television, movies, video games

    • Possible ‘desensitization’ of young people (and themselves) to acts that may lead to self-harm or harm to others; diminished empathy for others

    • Increased reports of gang-related activity

      There does not seem to be a concerted effort to reduce the stressors.

Changing views on violence
Changing Views on Violence

  • Society no longer tolerates domestic violence and is beginning to have the same lack of tolerance for violence in communities

  • Media accounts of societal violence and crime cause a perception of increasing danger. Statistically, crime rates have decreased and levels of violence in society are stable.

  • The school is part of a larger community and its students reflect the parents and community in their beliefs, attitudes and actions.

What do we know about bullying events
What do we know about Bullying Events?

  • Most bullying incidents occur

    • Immediately prior to school or after school

    • In situations without supervision

  • Bullying can be direct or indirect:

    • Direct: face to face confrontation

    • Indirect: shunning, gossiping, malicious damage to reputation or friends

Defining bullying
Defining Bullying

Bullying is a form of aggression in which there is an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. The key elements include:

  • Power imbalance

  • Bully’s intent to harm

  • Victim’s distress

  • Repeated over time

    (Peplar & Craig, 1988)

Bullying versus hostility
Bullying versus Hostility

  • When children and youth interact negatively, the result is not necessarily bullying. For example,

    • One-time only name-calling, teasing, fighting, and gossiping are name-calling, teasing, fighting, and gossiping (not bullying).

    • When the negativity includes a power imbalance and occurs repeatedly, bullying is considered.

Bullying and human development
Bullying and Human Development

  • Young children who bully tend to engage in:

    • Pushing, shoving, calling names, teasing, isolating

  • Adolescents who bully tend to engage in:

    • Harassing, attacking in groups or through peers, using sexual comments/gestures, fighting, threatening/intimidating, using internet messaging to gossip, dating violence, emotional blackmail

  • Adults who bully tend to engage in:

    • Assault, domestic violence, child abuse, workplace harassment, senior abuse, social aggression

Extent of bullying the negatives
Extent of Bullying – the Negatives

  • Worldwide phenomenon

  • Approximately 15% of school-aged children and youth are either bullied or initiate bullying (Olweus, 1993)

    [9% victims/7% bullies]

Extent of bullying the positives
Extent of Bullying – the Positives

  • Worldwide attention to bullying has provided many programs, strategies, and protocols for reducing anti-social behaviours

  • Approximately 85% of school-aged children and youth are neither bullied nor initiate bullying (Olweus, 1993)

The context of bullying
The Context of Bullying

Three-tiered model of school discipline and violence prevention



Skiba, Rausch & Ritter(2004)


Nurturing the positives
Nurturing the Positives

  • With such an overwhelming number of students with positive behaviours and attitudes, schools:

    • Create safe and caring environments

    • Offer skill sessions on conflict resolution, friendship, mediation, social responsibility within daily activities and curricular outcomes

    • Create opportunities for peer assistants, volunteerism

    • Provide interventions for students having difficulties in pro-social skills

Where bullies flourish
Where Bullies Flourish

  • Places with:

    • Minimal supervision of activities

    • Harsh punishments for rule infractions

    • Little or no acknowledgement of positive behaviour

    • Little or no affection or trust

    • Weak or aggressive communication; problem solving through power, aggression, threat or intimidation

    • High employee turnover and absentee rates

    • Communities with little police or adult presence

Where bullies flounder
Where Bullies Flounder

  • Places with:

    • Logical consequences related to actions

    • Consistent, reasonable rules and discipline

    • Discretion; the ability to learn from mistakes

    • Warm and accepting social climate

    • Caring and supportive adults and young people

    • Observable, appropriate, affectionate parental behaviour

    • Open discussion to solve problems

    • Adult supervision

    • Gradual increase of responsibility based on behaviour

Positive signs the role of the family
Positive Signs – the Role of the Family

  • Parents are becoming involved in school planning and decision making

  • Families are taking advantage of recreational and educational opportunities in the community

  • Parents are volunteering at schools and becoming involved with their students

  • Parents are attending parent sessions and parent-teacher interviews

Positive signs the role of the school
Positive Signs – the Role of the School

  • Schools are addressing school climate in their annual and divisional planning

  • School counsellors, social workers, school psychologists, resource teachers, classroom teachers and administrators are working as planning teams to address individual cases

  • School codes of conduct are being revised in light of safe schools legislation and the need for discretion

  • Crisis intervention plans and threat assessment protocols have been developed in preparation for unforeseen events that include violence

  • Parent education sessions are available

Preventing violence


Preventing Violence

To reduce and prevent violence…



Victim warning signs
Victim Warning Signs


    • Moody, sullen, withdrawn

    • Depressed

    • Lose interest in school or group activities

    • Lose appetite and have difficulty sleeping

    • Torn clothing, unexplained bruises

    • Refuse to attend school, group activities or specific location

    • Want to carry protection

Bully warning signs
Bully Warning Signs


    • Few long term friends

    • Angry, aggressive, avoidant, anti-social

    • Unkind to animals, to self, to others

    • Bruised/scraped knuckles, broken school equipment

    • School and sports equipment used as weapon

    • Secretive online messaging

    • Lack empathy, responsibility, habitually blame

    • Sense of urgency for control/domination

    • Engage in violent role-play games

    • Have been bullied

Bystander warning signs
Bystander Warning Signs

  • Witnesses to bullying tend to:

    • Accelerate violent behaviour by creating an audience when the bullying is physical

    • Accelerate the bullying by gossiping when the bullying is emotional

    • Circle the ‘action’ and support the bully

    • Avoid reporting the incident

    • Exaggerate events or downplay events

Reducing bullying
Reducing Bullying

  • KEY: Do not ignore bullying. It is not a “phase”.

  • Schools, communities and families work together to create opportunities for change.

  • School counsellors, psychologists and social workers are trained in addressing the needs of victims, bystanders and perpetrators.

  • Teachers are trained in anti-bullying programs and responding to incidents.

  • Safe School Student Committees

  • Safe Community Parent Groups

Building resilient school environments

School-based programs:

Positive Behaviour Support

Virtues Project


Second Step

Lion’s Quest

Conflict Resolution

Peer Assistants

Conflict Managers

School-based services:

Teacher intervention

Administrative intervention




School-based Protocols:

Code of conduct

Threat assessment procedures

Emergency preparedness procedures

Counselling pre- and post-suspension

Administrative discretion

Attendance policies

In-school alternatives to suspension

Building Resilient School Environments

Nurturing positive power in school settings
Nurturing Positive Power in School Settings

  • Prevention

    • Anger management sessions

    • Conflict resolution in practice

    • Interactive role modelling of pro-social behaviours

  • Discipline

    • Consistency and fairness (heightened security, zero tolerance and punitive discipline are not effective in deterring violence – punishment alone does not change behaviour and can increase misbehaviour – suspensions weaken students’ connections to schools and worsen academic performance)

Nurturing positive power in school settings1
Nurturing Positive Power in School Settings

  • Environmental Strategies

    • Respectful behaviour is modelled and expected

    • High levels of caring and academic expectations

    • Teachers know students individually

    • Students actively engaged academically

    • Pro-social approaches to teaching and learning

    • Co-operative education practices

    • Good extracurricular activities

    • Recognition and respect for student’s diverse backgrounds

    • Mentoring, monitoring, follow-up

    • Bullying incidents are addressed swiftly

Nurturing positive power in community settings
Nurturing Positive Power in Community Settings

  • Community policing

  • Citizens on patrol

  • Block parents

  • Home/School liaisons

  • Youth Justice Committee

  • Volunteer program

  • Youth centre/drop in centre

  • Continuing education/parenting courses

  • Non-competitive recreation opportunities

  • Supervised recreation facilities

  • Safe shelters

Nurturing positive power at home
Nurturing Positive Power at Home

  • Open dialogue; pro-social skill development

  • Caring supervision balanced with sense of privacy

  • Appropriate consequences for misbehaviour

  • Discretion

  • Sense of belongingness

  • Autonomy for age/stage appropriate decision-making

  • Recognition for individual differences and strengths


  • Bullying begins with anti-social behaviours such as discourtesy, disrespect and lack of empathy

  • Bullying is learned and can be unlearned

  • Bullying is negative power-related and can therefore be reduced or eliminated through systemic support for positive power

  • Any form of bullying or violent behaviour is distressing. Fortunately, incidents are few and schools have programs, protocols, and trained personnel in place to address issues and concerns.

  • Together, communities, families and schools can make the world a safer, kinder place.