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Bullying requires immediate action, expert says
"If we could all follow the Golden Rule, we wouldn't need bullying prevention. But we are not in that place. We are at a place where kids need help knowing how to treat one another," says Dr. Deborah Kipps-Vaughan.
Deborah Kipps-Vaughan, Psy.D
Assistant Professor of Graduate Psychology, James Madison University
Kipps-Vaughan knows first hand the dangers of bullying. A licensed clinical psychologist, she was supervisor of psychological services for Halifax County Public Schools before joining the JMU faculty in 2008. In Halifax County, she was responsible for training and implementation of a school district bullying prevention program.
"Kids are much more resilient than we are as adults, but at the same time, because peer acceptance is so, so important, things that we might as adults want them to blow off, hurt. Kids ruminate about it and damage starts really being done to their self-esteem."
"You don't hear much about it, but a key element to understanding bullying is the bully/victim. That's the individual that has had negative interpersonal experiences, which is always hard as a kid, has usually a more acceptable attitude toward hostile behavior or aggression and has less regard for conventional rules. This understanding can help us recognize kids that need our attention, and then there are ways to try and work with their thinking and attitudes. Cognitive behavioral work through some counseling, for instance."
Once bullying behavior is identified, Kipps-Vaughan stresses that a comprehensive, on-the-spot response is necessary. "Whenever we see bullying happen, we should stop it right away, name the behavior – call it 'bullying.' That's some of the problem is we don't call things bullying that are bullying. So imbedded in this piece about naming is we have to be clear about the definition of 'bullying.' It is an act with harmful intention, it is a repeated act and there is some imbalance of power, such as size or social status."
"Further critical parts to the comprehensive response are immediate consequences for the bullying behavior and support for the victim. You have to do all the parts."