To the trained nose or eye, it’s no mystery why some children are bullied. Basically, these children behave differently than their peers. However, children who are bullied are actually very different from each other as are the reasons they are bullied. For example, some of these children are shy and timid, others are impulsive and jump in feet first without first thinking, and still others are out of sync and act oddly. What these children have in common is that none of them know what to do to stop the bullying and be accepted by their peers. Over time, these children will develop low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and increasing despair about their inability to connect with others.
Even though bullied children are a diverse group, adults frequently tell all of them to seek assistance from their teachers when they are being mistreated. Although we need to protect children, this overly simplistic approach only perpetuates the problem because it essentially disempowers these children by not teaching them anything about themselves, their behavior, nor why they are being mistreated by their peers.
You can’t fix it (i.e. bullying), if you don’t know what’s broken. For this reason, a thorough evaluation is indicated and should always precede any type of intervention. This entails interviewing and observing parents and their children as well as obtaining teacher feedback on peer interactions. Sometimes, actually observing the bullied child in the classroom is warranted as well. Only by gathering data can one determine what a child is and isn’t doing that makes them vulnerable to bullying.
It takes an expert with specialized education and training as well as extensive experience to interview/observe children and then determine what the problem(s) is. Dude is the man, I mean the therapy dog, for the job! He is a wise German Shepherd who puts kids at ease by his loving and gentle presence. However, he’s much more than just another pretty face.
The way in which bullied children interact with him and his feedback to them verbally mediated by myself, provide ample and repetitive opportunities for these distressed children to figure what to do differently in social situations and thereby improve their self-esteem, social awareness, social judgment, social skills, and social confidence as well as impulse control.
Originally published on The Healthy Planet, October 13th, 2011.