The key is to identify potential problem kids and help them before their feelings of anger and depression become too great for them to know how to handle.  Look for:

Sometimes all it takes is for an 'outcast' to have one friend or one adult who cares and will listen to them.   Other times all it takes is for someone to validate their feelings.  Contrary to what many people believe, it is suppression of feelings that causes people to go crazy, not expression of them.  If a child can be helped to express his anger and pain, they will dissipate, not multiply.  

Know that anger is always a result of pain, and pain is simply the heart telling the mind that it needs to be comforted.  Kids don't just learn facts at school, they learn to trust.   One of the most important things they will learn is trusting others with the way they feel.  Always reward expression of feelings (even negative ones) with appropriate, respectful, comments such as:

In truth, there are no feelings that are wrong, only actions that are wrong.  Feelings  are inherent, but actions are decisions.  Emotions never hurt anyone, but when we act on our emotions we can hurt others.  Recognizing negative feelings helps children to avoid wrong actions.  Recognizing positive feelings helps children to feel good about themselves and others.

When a person has an outburst or completes a wrong action, such as an act of aggression, they will have emotional feelings that they may not be able to identify.  Not recognizing one's own feelings can cause a person to feel confused and depressed.  Adults can help the errant party to identify his/her feelings by discussing them in a sympathetic way, such as:

Adult: "What were you feeling when you swore at Jason and knocked down his backpack?"

Youth: "I was mad because he called me '@#$%,' and he did the same thing yesterday."

Adult: "So it really hurt your feelings?"

Youth: "Well, duh!"

Adult: (Stay calm and don't respond to sarcasm or negativity, but try different words) "I can see that you really felt insulted."

Youth: "Yeah, and he always does that, and not just to me!"

Adult: "So you feel that he needs to change his behavior?"

Youth: "Yeah! Big time!"

Adult: "So you would feel better if we talked to him about his behavior and not just to you about your behavior?"

Youth: "You got it!"

Adult: "That can be done.  Now let's talk about your behavior.  Was there a better way you could have handled yourself when Jason began acting inappropriately?"

Youth: "Well, maybe."

Adult: "Like, could you have ignored him and then come and told me and let me deal with it?"

Youth: "Yeah, but then everyone says you ratted and they shun you."

Adult: "What if you were to just walk away?"

Youth: "Then they call you chicken@#$ and they know you're an easy target."

Adult: "If a person calls you a chicken@#$ does that mean you are one?"  

Youth: "I guess not."

Adult: "How do you think you could handle this if it happens again."

Youth: "Maybe if I just give him a know...a dissy look...and walk away and laugh a little, like he isn't bothering me."

Adult: "Right, because they do it just to bother you, so you win when you refuse to be bothered by it."

Youth: "I guess so."

In this example, the adult has garnered the trust of the youth by validating his/her feelings before providing suggestions on correcting the errant behavior.  It takes two to make a fight.  It is important to talk with all the parties involved and not put the blame on just one person.  Frequently, a person may be guilty of repeated aggression and bullying that incites others to react in self-defense.  Then it becomes necessary to focus on the bully and why he thinks it's okay to abuse others.  This youth may need private counseling as well as counseling at school.  Though your resources may be limited remember that any time spent with this youth now may help prevent future acts of aggression that would affect the whole school. 

More info on school violence:  * * *

For more suggestions on dealing with bullying click here or see the book "P.E.T. In Action" by Dr. Thomas Gordon (Parent Effectiveness Training), Bantam Books

A child doesn't care how much you know 

until he knows how much you care. 

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