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Why Bullying Awareness Isn’t Enough: Finding a Solution to the Bullying Problem

Bullying is nothing new. From the infamous Phoebe Prince case a decade ago to the recent news that mega-producer Scott Rudin is stepping back from Broadway due to allegations of workplace harassment, bullying extends from the schoolyard to the office.

The question is, why does bullying continue to plague our society? For years, schools have hosted anti-bullying assemblies and teacher trainings. The news cycle is filled with stories of children who were bullied to death, actors and directors who mistreated their colleagues, and managers who created toxic work environments. Everyone knows that bullying is bad and it seems to be getting worse.

So, why hasn’t it ended? The war on bullying started when the first shots rang out at Columbine High School in 1999. Now 22 years later, people are well-aware of the problem but still vague about the solution.

Social aggression expert and youth motivational speaker Jeff Veley has some ideas about why we’re stuck — and how to move forward.

Why is bullying still a problem when there are so many anti-bullying programs and laws?

Because an “anti” bullying programs tell people what we already know: bullying is bad. It’s not providing any framework to actually stop bullying or help victims negotiate the situation.  Furthermore, these tend to label aggressive people rather than the behavior as bad.  Painting children with this broad brush based on a few incidents is both unhelpful and hypocritical.

Most of the time, these initiatives are started by wonderful people who want to make a difference but aren’t aware of how to solve the core problem. That’s why these movements can gain traction quickly but die out or turn negative on social media. We see it after every tragic case of a kid who commits suicide after being bullied. In some cases laws are passed but they are rarely psychologically sound.

So, there’s an anti-bullying initiative that gets people fired up — but it keeps the focus on stopping the bullying rather than empowering the child who feels like a victim.  Some actions expose and humiliate those who are exhibiting aggressive behaviors.   This perpetuates the behavior and results in additional victims.

This is happening right now in Dayton, Ohio. A young man just attempted suicide after years of being bullied, so the school made an anti-bullying task force. Which raises two questions: what was the school doing before, and why are they using anti-bullying strategies, which are proven to fail?  We’ve seen so many of these initiatives launched, and yet children feel ill-equipped to respond to mean kids and manage emotions.  A different approach is needed.

Many schools and workplaces have zero tolerance for bullying. Is that a more effective option?

Not at all. People who create those programs and policies are often mis-educated or misinformed. That old anti-bullying methodology, the zero-tolerance approach, has been proven to make things worse. It’s not as simple as telling people to “stop bullying.”

Yet I meet parents and educators every day who claim zero tolerance is the best path. We have years of research to prove that this only raises hostility and decreases trust between students and grownups. It’s simply not effective. And often, it ends up punishing targets who attempt to fight back. Other times, the behavior moves off campus and online, causing a cyberbullying problem that can be nearly impossible to track or control.  Once again, we haven’t solved the core issue.

Are bullying awareness programs effective?

You may think that If kids and adults learn to recognize bullying behavior and the harmful impacts, that it would stop.  When it comes to bullying, we don’t need awareness. We need solutions. But well-meaning people who want to stop bullying don’t really know how to fix it. We can tell people to just not bully others, but ultimately that doesn’t work. Aggressors know that they’re bullying others.

Those that don’t have a solution to bullying find creative ways to re-communicate a known problem. They’re hoping that by making workshops, or documentaries, or theatre plays, or whatever about bullying, that they’ll strike the right chord — and maybe convince someone not to be a bully.  While we’re wasting time scolding aggressors and marching through communities, the targets are wondering what they can do to actually make it stop.

Why it it hard to stop bullying?

By definition, bullying is social aggression. It’s an imbalance of power where one person gets pleasure from having power over another. It’s a game.  The school’s mean girl isn’t going to stop as long as she’s winning just like a gambler won’t pull their bucket away when they hit a jackpot. There’s an emotional payoff that keeps the cycle going.  It can be addictive. Until the reward stops, the behavior continues.  So how can we empower the target to respond?  What is the best approach to stop bullying?

We need to stop focusing on awareness and “anti-bullying.” Awareness and bystanders doesn’t stop victimization. Empowering targets with the right skills does. Bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s social aggression. There’s a reason the person is continued to be targeted. It’s not their fault, but they are the one who can turn off the reward for their enemy.  When they do, the game is over.

Empowering targets corrects the power imbalance.  It allows them to keep their power, instead of it being taken from them.  As a result, they grow in confidence and learn how to resolve their own social conflicts.  This moves them from victim to victor.  They become the hero of their own story and can even use their experience to help others.  Through skills training, a multiplication effect can take place where students educate their peers, and a group (or school culture) grows in resilience.

Research shows that strategies like The Peace Sign Approach are the most promising solutions to social aggression. These approaches show kids — and adults — how to manage their emotions, navigate social challenges, and respond to adversity in a healthy way.  It’s all based on social and emotional learning and resilience education.

SOURCES USED: middle-schooler-attempts-suicide following-allegations-of-bullying

About Jeff & The Approach

Educators, How Can We Best Care for You?

Tips for Boosting Staff Morale and Wellness

It’s no secret that it’s been a tough year.  Burn out is at an all time high for educators.  Instead of assuming what teachers need, I reached out to large groups of educators and social media and asked.

My question…
Educators – What are some practical ways that your school cares for staff (especially during this challenging time)? Does your building have anything in place that serves as a consistent morale booster?

You might have expected them to respond with a culture-changing program or a mass initiative for staff unity. Instead, it turns out that little things are making the biggest difference.  Below is a summary of responses and some creative ways to encourage teachers and support staff.

Ideas from Educators


Scheduled Staff Lunches
Catered Meal or Potluck
Co-op Lunches (partner and pre-order from a local restaurant or food truck)
T4: Teams taking turns with treats
Survey on favorite snacks with surprise treats throughout the year.
Sonic slush or shake run

Random Acts of Awesomeness

Weekly Gift Basket Raffles
Random Acts of Kindness Committee
Social & Emotional Learning Team, leading activities such as Thankful Thursdays, love cart with snacks, weekly SEL tips in principals newsletter
Treat Trolly (with snacks and teaching supplies)

Recognition & Appreciation

Shout Outs/A Hoot and a Holler (Intercom Announcements and/or newsletter)
Classroom Positivity Buckets (notes from students/staff read during class time and staff meetings
Jean Days (every day!)

Organized Activities

Weekly wellness tips (for students and staff)
Monthly wellness workshops (beneficial for kids and staff)
Book study of “Onward – Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators”.  Highlighting tidbits from the book in weekly staff meetings.
Weekly Good News – a video channel featuring episodes created by both staff and students.

School Culture and Commitment

The Impact of Commitment and Consistency in Education

Being Committed to the Right Thing

Consistency is the key to behavioral change.  Consistency with the right things will help you succeed.  Consistency with the wrong thing – obviously is bad.  Many schools fall victim to the “Shiny Star Syndrome”.  This means that you’re constantly adding new programs, curriculum, initiatives, and procedures.  While this can be exciting, often implementation suffers, meaning little consistency.  Before mastering something, staff are usually introduced to another new thing. 

Effective or Comfortable?

Are your programs effective or are they just comfortable?  Taking your favorite curriculum or initiative behind the barn and “shooting it” is tough.  Many schools get caught up doing the same thing because “we’ve always done it this way”.  Forget tradition, stick with what works and regularly test the effectiveness of what you’re using.  Sometimes things feel good in the moment but don’t make a lasting impact.

Virtual School Assemblies Help Students Overcome Challenges

Youth Motivational Speaker Teaches Students Resiliency and Coping Skills

New Challenges for Students

It’s no surprise that 2020 has been a tough year for all of us. But when it comes to students who are having their school years disrupted due to COVID-19, it can sometimes feel overwhelming and unfair. Take everything that the reformative school years bring with it: getting used to leaving mom and dad, hormones, new friends, insecurities, peer pressure and so on and add a global pandemic on top of it and it’s easy to see why students need a little extra support this year.

Helping Students Overcome Adversity

The best way to help students is to teach ways to cope with and ultimately overcome adversity.  These skills can be used both inside and outside of the classroom.  Using creative methods, grownups can help kids grow in emotional resilience and social and emotional learning.

Virtual School Assemblies

Youth Speaker Cameras ZOOM Screens

Jeff Veley is an expert and empowering youth and building their resilience.  Over the last 10 years, he has taught over1 million kids and grownups how to face adversity, resolve conflicts, and overcome obstacles. He’s a popular youth motivational speaker, known for his ability to engage all ages – through fun and inspiring assemblies and training.  It’s never too early to teach kids these valuable skills which is why Jeff offers his assemblies for all grades, as well as adults.

COVID-19 is a new, but not impossible challenge. Jeff will teach your students important coping skills, how to overcome adversity and much more through engaging methods like inspiring stories, music, magic and interactive games. All of this will be delivered from a professional broadcast studio with high-end cameras, microphones, lighting and the latest technology.

Motivational Message. Transformational Skills

New this year, Jeff will share a new message on civility, coping skills and emotional resilience. Jeff is committed to showing students and faculty and staff how to leverage this year’s adversity for psychological growth.

Schedule Your Presentation

There is no better time than this year to have Jeff virtually visit your school to inspire and encourage your students.  Through his virtual school assembly he will teach them lessons they will have with them for life.

Bring Jeff to Your School

  • Student Assembly Programs
  • Professional Development Training
  • Parent Workshops
  • Family Night Livestream Shows

Social & Emotional Learning without the Planning

Plug and Play Lessons for On-Campus & At-Home Learning

.When you consider all of the challenges this school year, teachers and counselors are in need of simple ways to engage students.  During COVID-19 it’s especially important that we teach social and emotional learning skills along with resilience education.  Still, it can be difficult to find curriculum that works both at-home and in the classroom.

As a social skills educator myself, I know how important it is to have engaging curriculum that’s EASY to facilitate. 
Imagine pre-made lesson plans and professional content where you can simply push “Play” and then have a class discussion.  Below are options for schools that are seeking fun new ways to teach SEL (without adding to planning time).

SQUABBLES SEL Curriculum Cover


Your Game Plan for Aggression

Golden Rule Ambassadors SEL Curriculum Cover

Golden Rule Ambassadors

Student Leadership & Campus Culture

Overcoming the Back-to-School Blues

Tip for Preparing At-Home Learners

For many students, heading back to school this year looks very different than in the past.  As a parent, it can be hard to know how to get your student excited for at-home learning.  Here are a few things you can do to help them look forward to learning this year.

Buy Some School Swag

While they may not be walking the halls, picking up few new shirts and a fresh haircut can help your child feel confident.

Child taking notes laptop

Create a Flexible Work Space

Many adults use sit/stand desks and add movement during their work day.  This is even more important for children.  Select a workspace where your child has some room to stand up and move.

Be sure to encourage good posture.  Propping up a device on a stack of books or a laptop stand can really help.

Personalize the School Area

The nice thing about at-home learning is the ability to decorate your space.  Let your child pick out a spot where they are comfortable.  Then, work together to decorate.

Create a Virtual Background

Platforms such as ZOOM allow you to use virtual background.  If allowed by your child’s school, create a fun background on a platform, like Canva.

If you have a younger child, they may want their favorite things in the background (maybe even something they create online).  Middle and high school students are more likely to display something from a video game, a quote that they’re passionate about, or art that inspires them.

Get Some Fidget Toys

It may be hard for your child to stay engaged during virtual learning.  Having some fidget toys can help them release energy while still focusing on their teacher.

If your child is getting restless, try a scribble pad and crayons, a stress ball, or silly putty.  For children that struggle with aggression, lavender hand lotion is a great way for them to self-soothe and calm their emotions.

Schedule & Prioritize Outdoor Time

The COVID-19 pandemic means a lot of us are staying inside and increasing time on our devices.  This is unhealthy, especially for our kids.  Schedule regular recess and other outdoor playtimes.  Outdoor activity will help your child get the fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun.  Both are great for physical and mental health.

Structure Snack & Lunch Times

Many kids try to grab extra snacks while at home.  This can lead to unhealthy eating patterns.  Additionally, eating the wrong foods can dramatically effect your child’s attention and moods.

Plan set times for meals and snacks.  It’s helpful to let your child pick out foods on grocery trips.  You may need to give them some healthy options to choose from.

Keep a Regular Bed Time

Proper and regular sleep is essential for kids and especially teenagers.  Have a set wind-down routine in the evening and get ready routine in the morning.  Ensuring that your child keeps this routine will increase the likelihood that they will be prepared for learning and form good habits.