“There are no bullies, only people.”
That’s the way educator and facilitator Amy MacClain of Soul Shoppe began her 90 minute presentation on bullies this week at to a room of 30 parents.
She defined bullying as “the consistent and repetitive hurt from a stronger party to a weaker one,” but again emphasized that in her view, bullies are “people who don’t know how to deal with feelings and who take it out on others. There are bullying behaviors, but there are no bullies.”
MacClain was offering the workshop as part of a series Hidden Valley School is presenting to students and parents by Soul Shoppe. Hidden Valley Principal Sandy Bruketta has nothing but praise for the program.
“Soul Shoppe has made a significant impact on our learning community,” she said in a statement to parents. “Student involvement has increased by providing words and phrases they are using to practice skills of resolution. We are moving from directions and corrections given by adults to initiating conversations where students offer apologies, agreements and support. We are hearing students speak to each other.”
MacClain told parents that that a child in the throws of anger, sadness or other kinds of emotional turmoil is not able to process thoughts at that moment.
“Connection is the solution to off-track behavior,” she said. “When you allow a child to release anger or sadness, it allows for thinking.”
She suggested when intervening in a situation where one child is being aggressive toward another, to turn the aggressive child away from the other child and toward the adult.
“Then get them to turn their attention toward you,” she said. “Then reflect something they’re feeling.”
She suggested getting on one knee, down to the child’s eye level, rather than speaking to them from above.
“Offer eye contact and warmth,” she said. “Reflect what’s happening to them. Reflect your belief in their goodness, worthiness and smarts. Don’t try to reason with them. Stay listening; say things like ‘I know it’s hard,’ or ‘you can learn this, I know you can.’”
A bully, she said, is replaying a trauma they’ve experienced.
“Getting angry at bullying behavior reinforces the behavior,” MacClain said. “There need to be positive limits to release the tension and let the healing begin. Let them release the stored up feelings, then ask them what they think might work.”
A student assembly presented by Soul Shoppe is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17. The presentation is called “You Are Amazing.”