On the last track, we discussed two concepts for helping students work together to deal with bullying at school. These two concepts are, intervening, and the anti-meanness test.
On this track... we will discuss three methods for helping students cope with doubts they may have regarding making a commitment to stand up to bullies. These methods are, Making a Commitment, Airing Doubts, and the Opposites technique.
3 Methods for Coping with Doubts
Method #1: ‘Making a Commitment’
A first method I frequently recommend to clients who are dealing with bullies is the ‘Making a Commitment’ technique. As you know from your practice, inviting a client to make a verbal commitment to her or himself can help strengthen the client’s drive to change.
An example of a verbal commitment which I suggest to my clients is, "From this moment on, I will do my best to treat all my peers with complete respect, especially when they are acting their worst. I know I can do this by not taking meanness seriously, and talking only to the good part of people with compliments, questions, agreements, reversers, I-statements, feeding back, naming feelings, golden nuggets, tone twisters, disconnected comments, playing the game, blocks, and pushers."
My client James, age 9, admitted he felt nervous about making a verbal commitment to himself. James stated, "Does this mean if I’m not nice to bullies all the time, I’m breaking my commitment?"
I stated to James, "Well, the commitment states that you will do your best to be respectful. You might want to remind yourself that this commitment is a promise to always try. It is not a promise to always be respectful. Everybody does the best they can do under each circumstance. Try thinking of your commitment as a reminder that treating people with respect, even bullies, is how you want to act."
Clearly, inviting a client to make a verbal commitment to her or himself is also valuable, because this allows the client’s doubts to surface. I stated to James, "When you read this commitment, you might start hearing some doubts come to your mind. They might sound like, ‘I’m not smart enough or brave enough to do that,’ or ‘what if I want to be mean myself?’ When I feel doubts like this, I try to remind myself that doubts are just old tape recordings that have gotten stuck in my brain and play very loudly."
James stated, "I feel like something’s stuck in my brain too. When I read that commitment, I just start thinking that it might not work, over and over again."
Method #2: Airing Doubts
I invited James to try the second method I use to help students cope with doubts. This second method is the Airing Doubts technique. I stated to James, "One way you can tell your doubts to quiet down is to say them out loud while you pinch your nose. The sillier you can make the doubts sound, the better! Once your doubts sound so silly that they quiet down, you may be able to hear the quieter voice inside you. This voice knows you can do whatever you set out to do."
Think of the technique you are currently using to help clients quiet their doubts. Would adding the Airing Doubts technique to the technique you are already using be helpful to your James?
I usually suggest that my clients make this commitment to themselves over again every so often. I find that this helps clients by giving them the chance to periodically air out and quiet their doubts, which in turn helps clients to feel more connected with their strength.
Method #3: Opposites
In addition to Making a Commitment and Airing Doubts, a third method I use to help students cope with doubts is the Opposites technique. Remember Brandy, from the last track? I also introduced the Making a Commitment and Airing Doubts techniques to Brandy, since both of these techniques can also be applicable to groups such as Brandy’s anti-meanness club.
I stated to Brandy, "Your club might try helping each other with doubts. Each time you meet; a different person could renew their anti-meanness commitment, and share her or his self doubts with the other group members. The person sharing his or her doubts can try to say each doubt in the silliest way possible. Then the other group members can help come up with a positive, opposite way to say each doubt. Let’s try some more examples." Using a whiny, dramatic voice, I stated, "What if I can’t do it?!"
I then asked Brandy to come up with an opposite way to phrase the doubt, "What if I can’t do it?" Brandy stated in a calm, curious voice, "What if I can do it?"
I stated, "That’s an excellent way to rephrase a doubt. Let’s try another example." I put a mean, ugly expression on my face and stated angrily, "I can’t let anyone get the best of me!"
Brandy responded, "It’s possible I could let someone think they got the best of me."
I explained to Brandy that she could also use Tone Twisters, which we discussed on Track 7, to help her anti-meanness club members turn their doubts inside out. I stated, "How might you use a Tone Twister if I sounded scared and worried, and said ‘I’m scared to try something new’?"
Brandy used a cheerful, positive voice and stated, "I’m scared to try something new!"
I stated to Brandy, "Don’t be surprised if sometimes your anti meanness club gets the giggles while they are helping each other twist their doubts into their opposites. You might also hear groans or tears. Try to keep at it in a positive way until each person recognizes their strengths and abilities."
Think of your James or Brandy. Would Making a Commitment, Airing Doubts, or the Opposites technique be useful to her or him?
On this track... we have discussed three methods for helping students cope with doubts they may have regarding making a commitment to stand up to bullies. These methods are, Making a Commitment, Airing Doubts, and the Opposites technique.
On the next track, we will discuss four facets of the effects of bullying on students. These four facets are, short term effects on the victim, long term effects on the victim, short term effects on the bully, and long term effects on the bully.
- Egan, L. A., & Todorov, N. (Jan 2009). Forgiveness As A Coping Strategy To Allow School Students To Deal With The Effects Of Being Bullied: Theoretical and Empirical Discussion. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 28(2), 198.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Beduna, K. N., & Perrone-McGovern, K. M. (2019). Recalled childhood bullying victimization and shame in adulthood: The influence of attachment security, self-compassion, and emotion regulation. Traumatology, 25(1), 21–32.
Huang, F. L., & Cornell, D. G. (2015). The impact of definition and question order on the prevalence of bullying victimization using student self-reports. Psychological Assessment, 27(4), 1484–1493.
Lam, S.-f., Law, W., Chan, C.-K., Wong, B. P. H., & Zhang, X. (2015). A latent class growth analysis of school bullying and its social context: The self-determination theory perspective. School Psychology Quarterly, 30(1), 75–90.
What are three methods for helping students cope with doubts?
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