As I’ve noted before, helping our children avoid bullying is a complicated question. Sometimes, what our children face is not bullying, but just plain old conflict that our children need to learn how to face. Negative feedback is a normal part of human interaction and learning how to respond is an important part of growing up. We need to avoid getting involved in ordinary, normal disputes between children. Several studies show that children who have adults overly involved in their lives grow into young adults with significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety, while moderate levels of adversity may increase resilience and coping skills. True bullying that warrants adult intervention is a much more serious, and sustained, activity.
Yet, even when we see true bullying, there are not many institutional programs that offer help. Since my last post, the Department of Justice has evaluated 13 anti-bullying programs, and found only 3 of them to be effective. 7 others are “promising,” but lack effectiveness in one or more areas. Another study found that some programs are effective up to 7th grade, but that starting in 8th grade, the programs are ineffective or even counterproductive.
That line between bullying and conflict is not an easy one to draw but erring on either side is bad for children. Even worse, we don’t seem to have any good solutions for preventing bullying. We need to find anti-bullying programs that actually work (as opposed to just making us feel good) and resist the urge to protect children from normal growing pains.