Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

How to Help a Bully: Recommendations for Counseling the Proactive Aggressor

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

How to Help a Bully: Recommendations for Counseling the Proactive Aggressor

Article excerpt

Initiatives to stop school bullying often prescribe counseling for the bullies. However, specific strategies for the counseling of bullies are not well defined. To succeed in stopping the aggressive behavior of bullies, school counselors must first understand the needs and motivations behind the behavior. This article distinguishes the characteristic type of aggression displayed by bullies--proactive aggression. Type-specific recommendations are presented for maximizing school counselors' effectiveness in their direct efforts to help bullies change.

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Bullying is one of the most widely practiced forms of aggression in American schools. It is broadly defined as the actual or attempted infliction of injury or discomfort by one student on another student that is intentional, abusive, and based on an imbalance of power between bully and victim (Olweus, 1994; Sullivan, Cleary, & Sullivan, 2004). According to the National Center for Education Statistics--2002, almost one third of public schools have reported daily to weekly occurrences of student bullying (Hall, 2006). Research suggests that nearly half of today's students will experience some form of bullying during their education; however, rates of bullying as high as 81% for school-aged males and 72% for school-aged females have been reported in some studies (Casey-Cannon, Hayward, & Gowen, 2001; Charach, Pepler, & Ziegler, 1995; Farrington, 1993, as cited in Sanders, 2004). In a survey by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 1.7 million children (one in five) in grades 6 through 10 admitted bullying their classmates (Cole, Cornell, & Sheras, 2006). On the basis of current statistics, Hall has concluded that school climates nationwide have been dramatically altered by the actions of bullies.

Bullying affects students academically, socially, and psychologically: Bullying victims cannot learn effectively in an ongoing climate of fear. In addition to the possibility, of physical injury, they are at increased risk for absenteeism (Limber, 2006), loneliness (Nansel et al., 2001), and lowered self-esteem (Hodges & Perry; 1996). Bystanders to bullying often fear becoming victims themselves and are further encumbered by conflicting emotions ranging from guilt over not helping bullying victims to lowered image among peers for being a "snitch" if they alert authorities to the problem (Clark, 2002). Bullies face risks of escalating behavior, further emotional injury, and punishment for harm to others unless their aggression is stopped. They are less likely to perform at full potential at school and more likely to engage in criminal behaviors after leaving school (Marsh, Parada, Craven, & Finger, 2004). Students who bully in middle school have been found to be up to four times more likely to be involved in later criminal activity than those who do not (Cole et al., 2006). Left unchecked, bullying attitudes and behaviors in children appear to become more serious and more difficult to prevent and may be carried into adulthood where their potential dangerousness and consequences increase exponentially (McAdams & Lambie, 2003).

Teachers have reported that they feel unprepared to recognize and handle the kinds of bullying that they are encountering in the classroom (Newman-Carlson & Home, 2004). As a result, they feel they are more likely to overlook serious bullying behaviors or to ignore those behaviors they recognize but feel inadequate or afraid to deal with. In a national survey, school administrators reported that a trend toward increasing aggression among students has diminished their roles from educators to disciplinarians and stifled their vision and creativity as school leaders (McAdams & Lambie, 2003). They strongly agreed that bullying has profoundly impaired educational processes and programs at multiple levels.

Serious incidents of school violence have brought national emphasis to the problem of bullying and prompted research initiatives in the areas of bullying prevention and school safety (Pichler, Urban, & Bockewitz, 2005). …

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