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David Coleman's "Bullyproof"


WilliamLee

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Bullyproof - RTÉ Player

Did anyone else find this programme exploitative and unpleasant? Coleman places all the focus on the bullied child (even the title itself is an outlandish and unrealistic claim that suggests kids can make themselves bullyproof - the logic being that they are NOT bullyproof and therefore somehow partly responsible for being bullied). While the bullied child undoubtedly needs help in dealing with the emotions and stresses of being bullied, these are essentially private issues that should be dealt with as such.

However, Coleman, in the first episode, places all responsibility on changing the situation on the bullied child: In one case using the Father as a role model of how to stand up the bully. The puzzled child had no idea of what to do or how to behave in front of Coleman and his Dad (each with a lifetime of experience behind them). In another situation Coleman squeezes the tears out of a 13 year old girl, also the subject of bullying. I found it unpleasant and exploitative.

The onus should not be on the bullied child to change the situation. Rather Coleman would have been better off focusing on aiding kids to identify bullying when it happens to others and teaching them how and when to report it, as well as teaching how adults can keep the lines of communication open and engender environments that do not tolerate bullying.
 

gijoe

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I'd imagine all the emphasis is on the bullied child in the programme as I reckon not many bullies are going to expose themselves on television. But I do find the guy more than a bit creepy.....
 

Victor Meldrew

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Once your self worth is damaged, bullying can get in, and is hard to shift, especially when it is encountered all day, as in school, or in the work-place. And as for the conduct that exists on-line, it makes lord of the flies look like a hug fest. Social media need to take this more seriously.

At least here it tends to be the ball, not the player.

I'm not convinced that the solution lies with school management and education.

We are pack animals, and we establish hierarchies very quickly. The best you can do is not be at the friction points of pecking orders. In school, the "Omegas" were happy enough and were not bullied, just lived apart in the chess club (as it were). The borderline nerds wanting to be in with the lads were more in the firing line.

Growing a thick skin is difficult, but is the only solution as it diffuses bullying from taking hold as you pass through life.
 

chriskavo

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Reminds me of this touching scene from Boardwalk Empire, Al Capones tries to teach his deaf son to stand up to the bullies.

[video=youtube_share;XaJal4MJNMM]http://youtu.be/XaJal4MJNMM[/video]
 

SiobhánT

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No, I did not find this programme exploitative and unpleasant. The participating families volunteered to take part and my guess is that they could pull out whenever they wanted to as at the end of the episode, it was revealed that the family with the boy had moved to the middle east.

I believe that the responsibility is placed on the bullied child because they cannot make others act in a certain way. However, by giving the bullied child the necessary skills they can influence the bullies choices.

In the case of the boy and the role modelling, David and the boy’s father were showing him how to be assertive. This is an essential skill to have in order to deal with bullies. If you put yourself in the shoes of a bully, you would be more inclined to bully someone with a passive attitude than someone who shows that they are not going to tolerate your actions. The fact that the child didn’t know what to do suggests that he really did need to learn to be more assertive.

As for the situation where Coleman “squeezes” the tears out of a thirteen year old girl, he was not the cause of the girl’s tears, the people who bullied her were and probably still are. Coleman was simply offering her the opportunity to express her feelings. It is very important that people express their feelings because if they internalise them, it can lead to self-harm, becoming withdrawn or even developing depression.

The aim of the show is to make people more aware of the effects that bullying has on the victim in hope that we as a society will not tolerate bullying in any form. As a viewer, I feel that the programme is very effective in doing so and I now feel that if I was aware of someone being bullied, I would not be able to just stand by and allow it to continue.
 

WilliamLee

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Hmm, an interesting post on a number of levels!

I am fully aware of the ethical considerations around the participations of minors, and issues of informed consent. However, it is also a fact that even when informed consent is given, the long term consequences should be evaluated by the person/persons running the study. However, the ethical considerations that apply to Coleman's field of research (Psychology) do not apply in a media/entertainment setting and are discretionary. This was one of the burning issues around relaity TV shows in the UK (Big Brother and The Prison for example) whereby psychologists working within a media environment were effectively able to carry out research not normally allowed under their own ethical guidelines - as it could effectively be considered entertainment and not psychological research.

I do not know if this was the case with Bullyproof but it would concern me.

Secondly, I find the second paragraph in your post staggering in its naievity. As someone who was bullied as a teenager and has an ongoing professional interest in the area I can tell you that once singled out, the bullied child has very little influence over their fate. This lack of personal agency is one of the primary reasons why bullying is so psychologically devastating. To make the claim as Coleman does that he can make any child "bullyproof" is not only an unrealistic claim, it also piles further feelings of inadequacy on the child. If they are not bullyproof then the fault effectively lies in their inability to influence the situation. A situation that is effectively out of their control. For example, Coleman's roleplaying in episodes one and two was focused on one on one situations: the bullied child and the bully. However bullies rarely work alone, especially with females. Indeed it is the non-direct covert pack approach of bullying that is most devasting. Colemans simplistic bullied-child centred approach is naieve and in my opinion ill-informed.

On your third point. I think further viewing on that section of the interview between Coleman and the girl will show that she was not in fact close to tears until Coleman repeatedly pressed the point home. In my opinion this was an inappropriate use of his position. You are absolutely right that (especially in girls) the internalization of negative feelings and experiences can contribute to psychological difficulties and has been identified as a risk factor in episodes self-harm, depression and borderline personality disorder in girls. However, this child seemed quite articulate and in touch with her feelings. As such, in this particular situation, with this particular child I do not feel Coleman's persistence and her tears were of any benefit to her. Furthermore she and was not in a safe clinical setting (one that would benefit such a letting of emotions) but was being filmed for national broadcast.

In short I feel the programme shies away from practical, social approaches to bullying, such as empowering children to act and ensuring adult responsibility (esp that lines of communication, confidentiality and support are maintained). Instead it focuses its attention on the bullied child and, as the title suggests, places the responsibility to change the situation on them. I am not for one second suggesting that the bullied child does not have a role to play in the situation and is merely a passive bystander. Indeed they need to be empowered to deal with the situation; to find the courage to report bullying, and the knowledge of how to use the psychological tools they already possess in order to protect and maintain their self esteem and self worth. However to suggest that they can, on their own, change a situation whereby they are generally outmuscled or outnumbered is unrealistic and irresponsible.

You would not empower a physically weaker older woman to fight off a gang, why would you expect a child to do so? One of the more interesting topics in developmental psychology is that of moral development. Coleman may well explore the role of peers and how they may intervene in later episodes. But strangely even when Coleman was introduced to the wonderful mentoring scheme in Loreto Wexford, he immediately switched his attention straight back onto the bullied child in what could only be described as an awkward and unpleasant exchange. There was a perfect opportunity to explore moral development among the girls peer group and how teens could be emporered to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular (but morally correct) choice to confront bullying in the school setting. Coleman fluffed the opportunity, and in style!
 
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Seanbean

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I'm a bit rushed now but I did feel strongly about this programme and wanted to register my thoughts even if in a general way. I don't like the approach in the programme. I think that putting emphasis on how the person being bullied reacts is not appropriate. I do think of course that its good for the bullied person to be supported and helped in terms of confidence building but neither would I do this in a public way on national TV. I think that no matter who gave the consent, it is wrong to work with children in this way. I think a more appropriate approach would be to look at the broader picture, what models work eg in schools or with social media, what can people do, parents, schools, etc and if necessary, behind the scenes offer support to the child being bullied
 

Estragon

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Generally speaking there's a school of thought that we are all in control of fate and that the only thing stopping us anything we want to achieve is our own lack of effort or imagination.

Coleman seems to be signed up to this patently ridiculous philosophy and this is it carried to a preposterous extreme..
 

Barrycelona

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I'm a bit rushed now but I did feel strongly about this programme and wanted to register my thoughts even if in a general way. I don't like the approach in the programme. I think that putting emphasis on how the person being bullied reacts is not appropriate. I do think of course that its good for the bullied person to be supported and helped in terms of confidence building but neither would I do this in a public way on national TV. I think that no matter who gave the consent, it is wrong to work with children in this way. I think a more appropriate approach would be to look at the broader picture, what models work eg in schools or with social media, what can people do, parents, schools, etc and if necessary, behind the scenes offer support to the child being bullied
I have read the above posts and some very interesting points have being made but the majority of those points are so far removed from reality and are so pc that it can only increase the hurt the child will feel. You treat the bully as a victim. They are not victims. They are little scumbags who think nothing about inflicting pain on others. Even bigger scumbags are their parents because it is the job of a parent to instil respect and good behaviour into their children. If the child becomes a bully, it is usually because the parents are not setting a good example to that child. The parents are the people that should be held accountable for their childs behaviour. if schools were sincere in their efforts to eradicate bullying, they would call in the parents, suspend the child until they sorted out the problem and let normal parents and children get on with their lives.If you were to follow your own guidelines with your own children in the area of bullying. I guarntee that you would lose the love and respect of that child very quickly.

What you propose is to throw all the problems of the bully and Bullied into a melting pot. Discuss the possible solutions to every problem in the hope that the problem will go away. Is it any wonder that so many young children commit suicide whilst Social Workers debate the issues.

It is the bullies parents that need to be tackled
 

Shqiptar

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Who's watching this? That young one (is she only a second year??) giving the speech before her peers about her being bullied is amazing. She's showing eloquence and maturity way beyond her years.
 

redhead

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I have read the above posts and some very interesting points have being made but the majority of those points are so far removed from reality and are so pc that it can only increase the hurt the child will feel. You treat the bully as a victim. They are not victims. They are little scumbags who think nothing about inflicting pain on others. Even bigger scumbags are their parents because it is the job of a parent to instil respect and good behaviour into their children. If the child becomes a bully, it is usually because the parents are not setting a good example to that child. The parents are the people that should be held accountable for their childs behaviour. if schools were sincere in their efforts to eradicate bullying, they would call in the parents, suspend the child until they sorted out the problem and let normal parents and children get on with their lives.If you were to follow your own guidelines with your own children in the area of bullying. I guarntee that you would lose the love and respect of that child very quickly.

What you propose is to throw all the problems of the bully and Bullied into a melting pot. Discuss the possible solutions to every problem in the hope that the problem will go away. Is it any wonder that so many young children commit suicide whilst Social Workers debate the issues.

It is the bullies parents that need to be tackled
You are completely correct, but this is how all bullying is dealt with, including workplace and institutional bullying. It is handled as if it were a legal problem rather than a social one with the burden of proof on the victim. Large institutions, particularly public sector and semi-state bodies, always put the responsibility on the victim by having formal procedures in place and semi-formal policies that aren't enforced. This allows them to pay lip service to dealing with the problem while ultimately protecting themselves from any legal liability and I would imagine schools function in a similar way.
 

WilliamLee

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I have read the above posts and some very interesting points have being made but the majority of those points are so far removed from reality and are so pc that it can only increase the hurt the child will feel. You treat the bully as a victim. They are not victims. They are little scumbags who think nothing about inflicting pain on others. Even bigger scumbags are their parents because it is the job of a parent to instil respect and good behaviour into their children. If the child becomes a bully, it is usually because the parents are not setting a good example to that child. The parents are the people that should be held accountable for their childs behaviour. if schools were sincere in their efforts to eradicate bullying, they would call in the parents, suspend the child until they sorted out the problem and let normal parents and children get on with their lives.If you were to follow your own guidelines with your own children in the area of bullying. I guarntee that you would lose the love and respect of that child very quickly.

What you propose is to throw all the problems of the bully and Bullied into a melting pot. Discuss the possible solutions to every problem in the hope that the problem will go away. Is it any wonder that so many young children commit suicide whilst Social Workers debate the issues.

It is the bullies parents that need to be tackled
This is precisely the point I was making too Barrycelona. Psychological issues are for me secondary when it comes to dealing with bullying. First and foremost it must be dealt with by parents, schools and peers, and a zero tolerance approach adopted by all. Then we can start worrying with other aspects. The real issue I had with Coleman was his focus on the bullied child and on psychology as the solution to the problem. It has a role to play, but only after the issue has been dealt with on a practical level.

I was very lucky as a first year in school. After a year of bullying (which followed me from my primary school) I reported it to a science teacher that I respected. He listened, reassured me, and no more was ever said about it. The bullying stopped that day and the ringleader left the school shortly after. I had no need of counselling whatsoever and I would say any psychological damage was minimal. I put this down to the fact that it was dealt with immediately and stopped dead; no waffle, no coaching or psychobabble. Amazingly Coleman sidestepped this entirely and focused on psychological sideshows.

Take as an example the karate lessons. So lets say the kid who takes the karate lessons stops being bullied. Great. What about the other kids in the school who do not take karate lessons? The bully will just move on to some other victim. And if all the kids in the school take karate lessons then some other failing will be identified by the bully in order to single out a child. Coleman's approach is waffle. Coleman found that the bullying "plan" in schools is outdated and that there is no joined up thinking. Then why the hell didnt he concentrate his efforts on this instead of making bullied kids cry and berating them with ridiculous role-playing exercises that have no bearing on real life bullying situations (which generally do not take place with adults on national TV!).
 
D

Dylan2010

This is precisely the point I was making too Barrycelona. Psychological issues are for me secondary when it comes to dealing with bullying. First and foremost it must be dealt with by parents, schools and peers, and a zero tolerance approach adopted by all. Then we can start worrying with other aspects. The real issue I had with Coleman was his focus on the bullied child and on psychology as the solution to the problem. It has a role to play, but only after the issue has been dealt with on a practical level.

I was very lucky as a first year in school. After a year of bullying (which followed me from my primary school) I reported it to a science teacher that I respected. He listened, reassured me, and no more was ever said about it. The bullying stopped that day and the ringleader left the school shortly after. I had no need of counselling whatsoever and I would say any psychological damage was minimal. I put this down to the fact that it was dealt with immediately and stopped dead; no waffle, no coaching or psychobabble. Amazingly Coleman sidestepped this entirely and focused on psychological sideshows.

Take as an example the karate lessons. So lets say the kid who takes the karate lessons stops being bullied. Great. What about the other kids in the school who do not take karate lessons? The bully will just move on to some other victim. And if all the kids in the school take karate lessons then some other failing will be identified by the bully in order to single out a child. Coleman's approach is waffle. Coleman found that the bullying "plan" in schools is outdated and that there is no joined up thinking. Then why the hell didnt he concentrate his efforts on this instead of making bullied kids cry and berating them with ridiculous role-playing exercises that have no bearing on real life bullying situations (which generally do not take place with adults on national TV!).

I'd agree , while lifeskills are great if acquired, by definiton no kids will have a team of life coaches and psychologists behind them and maybe reduced to the crass "buy my book". Kids deserve a safe environment when not in their parents care and the state run education system does not care
 

gatsbygirl20

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You are completely correct, but this is how all bullying is dealt with, including workplace and institutional bullying. It is handled as if it were a legal problem rather than a social one with the burden of proof on the victim. Large institutions, particularly public sector and semi-state bodies, always put the responsibility on the victim by having formal procedures in place and semi-formal policies that aren't enforced. This allows them to pay lip service to dealing with the problem while ultimately protecting themselves from any legal liability and I would imagine schools function in a similar way.
One poster a page back--with obvious professional training in this area--mentioned "moral development"

Schools should be--and many are--setting the highest standards for themselves in this area.

Any Principal or teaching body who allows a school to become a wasteland where the wolves run free, is seriously remiss in their professional responsibility and should be ashamed of themselves

From the top down, a school must SHOW--not just tell--respect, firmness, kindness, a GENUINE care and inclusivity for everyone inside its door, underpinned by a tough, fair consistent discipline structure where everyone knowing the rules and where everyone is on board---school care-taker, canteen staff, all teachers, all prefects...

Strong warm mentoring schemes should be in place, so that on the first day a scared little First Year arrives in school, he has a Sixth Year or Fifth Year mentor or "buddy" who helps him settle in

If cool, popular senior kids are not putting themselves forward for these posts, school management needs to ask itself why---because in many schools this system works wonderfully, and some of these schools would traditionally have a "tough" intake..

There is huge untapped idealism in young people--sometimes in the most unlikely kids. Schools have a duty to draw out this idealism---in the original meaning of education, "to lead out"...

Teachers must be vigilant around "bully zones"--school lockers, toilets--never leaving these areas unsupervised

Once a bully is caught he must be punished under the school rules, but the school also has a larger moral duty. In my school we have found that some form of "restitution" is helpful. But this should never be seen as a substitute for the punishment which is mandatory and is written clearly in the school discipline policy

The Principal --as a condition of accepting the bully back into school after suspension--asks the bully to come up with some ideas on how he can "make it up" to the bullied child. If the parents of the bullied child are in agreement, and only then, a meeting is held with all parties and a plan worked out...

None of this will totally stamp out bullying. As one poster says, we are pack animals, hierarchical in nature, but in schools like the above, there will be a lot less bullying...
 

MissusChief

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Like everything else you have to start at the top.

When the government stops bullying adults the kids might have a half decent example. Until then I am not going to lie to them about the beauties of life.
 

redhead

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Once a bully is caught he must be punished under the school rules, but the school also has a larger moral duty. In my school we have found that some form of "restitution" is helpful. But this should never be seen as a substitute for the punishment which is mandatory and is written clearly in the school discipline policy

The Principal --as a condition of accepting the bully back into school after suspension--asks the bully to come up with some ideas on how he can "make it up" to the bullied child. If the parents of the bullied child are in agreement, and only then, a meeting is held with all parties and a plan worked out...

None of this will totally stamp out bullying. As one poster says, we are pack animals, hierarchical in nature, but in schools like the above, there will be a lot less bullying...
This is obviously the ideal way of handling it GG, both for adults and children, but there isn't a shortage of solutions there is simply a shortage of those prepared to implement them.
 

stopdoingstuff

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A cousin of mine got bullied one time. His response was considerably less effeminate than the ones we see on shows like this. He went home, got a hurl, and beat seven shades of sh hit out of the guy who was bullying him. It really improved his self esteem and in no way required the assistance of a HSE funded psychologist.
 

gatsbygirl20

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This is obviously the ideal way of handling it GG, both for adults and children, but there isn't a shortage of solutions there is simply a shortage of those prepared to implement them.
Schools are in-servicing each other to share best practice here. But much, much more needs to be done.

Parents need to kick up hell on this. It often surprises me how a parent will insist that their child be moved from say Pass Maths into Honours, and will literally not leave the school until they get an undertaking from the Principal that this will happen, but in the area of their child's emotional well-being they feel much more helpless, and expect little from the school.

A friend whose child was being badly bullied in a Secondary school, removed him without giving any reason to the school, although this person would have been very vocal and insistent in other academic areas of the school--demanding timetable changes, insisting that her child be in what she considered the correct level, etc.

If some schools can do a lot in the area of bullying, and have evidence of success in eradicating or at least minimising it, then all schools need to be upping their game here.

Interestingly it is often the schools with a traditionally "tough" intake who have put in place proper procedures for confronting bullying. In schools where you would possibly least expect it--elite all-girl private schools, for example--a bullying culture can grow almost by stealth.
 

Christabel

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A cousin of mine got bullied one time. His response was considerably less effeminate than the ones we see on shows like this. He went home, got a hurl, and beat seven shades of sh hit out of the guy who was bullying him. It really improved his self esteem and in no way required the assistance of a HSE funded psychologist.
Sounds to me like a sensible response. I've often wondered how one person could kill 84 healthy young in the Norwegian massacre without a couple of them trying to jump him - a case of over-feminisation and excessive passivity in the culture? Very different to the time when Michael Stone went on his killing spree in the Northern Irish graveyard and was taken on by some of those present, even though at a considerable risk to themselves - think a few died as a result - but better than taking it all lying down...
 

stopdoingstuff

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Sounds to me like a sensible response. I've often wondered how one person could kill 84 healthy young in the Norwegian massacre without a couple of them trying to jump him - a case of over-feminisation and excessive passivity in the culture? Very different to the time when Michael Stone went on his killing spree in the Northern Irish graveyard and was taken on by some of those present, even though at a considerable risk to themselves - think a few died as a result - but better than taking it all lying down...
Very true. I think it is a consequence of society being over-governed- it seems like we have internalized this sense of constantly needing some higher authority to fix our problems or sanction our actions, and that it is somehow preferable to have a nation of procedurally compliant victims than a nation of people with the balls to go and fix their own problems. If we raise people thinking that they can always rely on some benevolent authority to fix their problems, they will be in for a very nasty surprise in later life.
 
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