The Northside approach to conflict and bullying
To equip students at Northside Junior School to be resilient, effective communicators empowered to deal with everyday conflict, we have implemented the BRIDGE BUILDERS® program from Prep to Year 6.
The BRIDGE BUILDERS® Program provides simple, faith based skills that teach resilience and constructive, peaceful approaches to respond to conflict or bullying. It is a whole-school community program that provides understanding, skills and a language for use in situations where conflict or bullying causes disconnection. It is embedded into the everyday life of the school. Its foundations lie in a Christian worldview with its core purpose to reflect Jesus' command in John 13:34:
“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.”
In preparing students with a twenty first century education, there is now more than ever a need to teach social and emotional skills that are consistent with the truths revealed in God’s Word. It is when they experience conflict or stress in social activities that they have the greatest opportunity to show love, resilience and be transformed. To achieve this transformation requires explicit teaching.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6
The good news is that conflict is inevitable and a normal part of life, if constructive conflict resolution skills are used, positive outcomes can proceed, including learning about self and others and building a resilient, creative problem solving and peacemaking community.
The Difference between Conflict and Bullying
A common misunderstanding amongst adults and children is that conflict and bullying are the same thing. Conflict and bullying are quite different. Where everyone can expect to experience conflict regularly and can learn to manage it, bullying is not experienced by everyone and should never be expected or accepted. Bullying also frequently needs intervention from another party. What often contributes to confusion between conflict and bullying is that the same types of behaviours are exhibited in both situations. For example, someone who is causing conflict with another child, may be resorting to name calling, excluding or gossiping about them. This same behaviour can certainly be described as typical in bullying too. So what makes the situation different?
Bullying has three distinct characteristics that separate it from conflict. The features are:
- Bullying is deliberate – there is an intent to hurt the other person
- Bullying is repeated – there is a history of hurtful behaviour
- Bullying has a power difference – often this power can be perceived
Unlike conflict that can have positive outcomes if managed well, bullying rarely has positive consequences or outcomes. Dr Ken Rigby, a renowned researcher in Australia and expert in bullying, identifies the harm bullying can create.[i] He claims that bullying can harm children in a number of ways:
1. Victimisation by peers may result in children becoming less able or less inclined to relate positively to the school and to their students; for example, it is claimed that some children absent themselves from school because of their fear of being bullied.
2. It may affect the capacity of some students to concentrate at school and acquire knowledge and skills being imparted by the school.
3. It may affect the health of some children, both mentally and physically, in both the short term and the long term.
The consequences of bullying are concerning and significant. More often than not, conflict precedes bullying. When teachers and parents teach children conflict resolution skills, they empower them with confidence, resilience and problem-solving life skills, reducing the potential for bullying incidents to flare up. The BRIDGE BUILDERS® Program is an explicit skills based program that equips the whole-school community to have a common understanding, language and skills to help prevent conflict escalating into bullying situations. These skills not only help students to have healthier relationships at schools but also for life!
[i] Rigby, K 1999, What Harm Does Bullying Do?,(p.4) Paper presented at the Children and Crime : Victims and Offenders Conference convened by the Australian Institute of Criminology, Brisbane,
Chirnside, J 2015, Empowered for Life, Equipping children to deal with everyday conflict and reduce bullying. Hanrahan Publishers, Australia.
Child protection training for staff
As part of the college’s strategy to protect the children in our care, every staff member undertakes annual on-line child protection training, as well as receiving updates from time to time in staff meetings. This training assists staff to respond appropriately to incidents of harm, or allegations of harm, to students. A copy of the College’s Child Protection Policy is available on our Parent Lounge.