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  • Writer's pictureLisa Dixon-Wells

Transforming the Shape of Bullying

Updated: Apr 30

the shape of bullying

The Shape of Bullying: Importance of Community Members in Prevention Efforts

The Shape of Bullying , whether it be in schools, sport, work, or elsewhere, follows a similar structure and everyone has a place in the diamond. Whether they know it or not, every community member has a role and a responsibility to contribute to bully prevention.

Most people assume that the problem of bullying begins and ends with bullies and their followers. While it is true that those who display bullying behaviour, the ringleaders, do not feel any remorse for their mistreatment of others, they often surround themselves with fellow students who support their actions. In our experience, these followers don’t necessarily feel good about what they are doing, but their need to fit in with a certain group outweighs their moral compass. In other words, we all want to feel like we belong and speaking out against the ring leader is a difficult thing not just for youth, but adults too.

Empowering the Silent Majority: The Dare to Care Approach to Bullying Prevention

shape of bullying

The “bullies” make up only about 6% of a typical school’s demographics; true bullies represent only about 2%. If such a small group wages bullying behaviour, why does bullying persist? One reason is that many bully prevention initiatives limit their scope to a few professional development sessions for a fraction of the faculty and administration. In doing so, they create an impossible set of expectations. Even if the designated “bullying experts” are well prepared to handle bullying incidents, what are the chances they will be on hand every time bullying occurs?

Beyond the ringleaders and their followers is the majority, approximately 79% of a school community who witness bullying behaviour but do not speak up or stepp in. We use a diamond shape as a helpful visual illustration of a community. At the top are the bullies, with their targets at the very bottom. Most of the diamond, however, represents the majority of the community that is not directly involved in bullying incidents. This “silent majority” holds the key to preventing bullying behaviour.

These individuals are unlikely to recognize or respond to bullying without bully prevention education. The Dare to Care Bully Prevention and Life Skills Program focuses on this untapped resource, transforming the “silent majority” into a “caring majority.”

It would be easy to blame apathy for a community’s inaction, but then we would miss the bigger issue and the bigger opening for real change. Our observation is that the silent majority remains silent due to fear of retaliation or fear of further fuelling the bullying. The Dare to Care program prepares the entire community to respond effectively to bullying behaviour, giving everyone the tools and confidence to make a positive difference. The result is a true cultural shift.

"Reshaping," "The Shape of Bullying."

Dare to Care educates and empowers everyone in the community. Through our age and role-appropriate workshops, we give everyone the tools and confidence to take the right action when they see bullying behaviour happening around them.

First, we instill a common definition and language around bullying behaviour. If news reports are our only source of information about bullying, we might believe that as many as 90% of children have been bullied by the time they reach junior high school. It is a frightening and misleading statistic because it relies incorrectly on the notion that a single incident qualifies as bullying. The incidence of actual bullying – which is repetitive and intentional – affects about 15% of a school population. While this number is lower, we know that the impacts of bullying for those targeted are significant and will stay with that individual for a lifetime. Bullying at any level is unacceptable, but knowing where bullying is really happening makes it possible to address it in the most productive way.

Dare to Care works with teachers, school administrators, coaches and youth program leaders to help them understand what does and doesn’t work in responding to bullying behaviour. In separate sessions, we teach parents how to recognize signs of bullying behaviour and how to coach their child to ask for help in a way that won’t be mistaken for tattling. We emphasize how important it is for students to trust that their reports of bullying will be taken seriously.

Students build a toolbelt of six skills to de-escalate and effectively report bullying:

  • Help – how to ask for help from an adult in a way that won’t be mistaken for tattling.

  • Assert Yourself – tips to help children stand up for themselves without escalating the situation.

  • Humor – how to use humor to de-escalate a situation.

  • Avoid – why it’s helpful to avoid places where bullying behaviour is likely to occur, and if an encounter happens anyway, how to walk away from it with dignity.

  • Self-Talk – how to practice silent self-affirmations after a negative encounter.

  • Own It –acknowledging any bit of truth in a bully’s comment often has the power to diffuse the situation and gain the empathy and respect of bystanders.

Students in grades K-6 learn the acronym “HA-HA-SO” to help them remember their new skills. In Grades 7-9, they also focus on repairing damaged relationships and building new, healthy ones.

Dare to Care includes plenty of examples and practice to ensure children can confidently use their new toolbelt, especially in stressful moments. Role-playing further anchors the learning. The skills students develop in asking for help, asserting themselves and self-affirming self-talk will stay with them for a lifetime.

Schools across around the world can purchase a year of access to our turnkey virtual program. Click here to learn more about our program content, watch sample program clips and review our pricing.

When everyone is empowered to recognize, prevent, and de-escalate bullying incidents, school becomes a safer, more welcoming environment.

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