Often the biggest bullies in a school are its teachers or the principal, according to Michael Reist, professional speaker, teacher and children’s counsellor.
“This is the occupational hazard of being a teacher, because we’re in the control business,” he explained. “One of the main tools in our tool kit is fear, and it can quickly escalate to what I’d call bullying.”
Bullying, as defined by Reist, is the use of fear and intimidation to gain power and control. As he explained, it’s simply a byproduct of the human tendency to achieve dominance, or move up the pecking order.
“We talk about bullying like it’s some isolated incident, but it’s really part of our culture,” Reist said. “If you want something, you use fear and intimidation to get it.”
You won’t have to look hard to find somebody who has been bullied, whether that be verbal or physical assault. Bullying occurs across the board, everywhere from the schoolyard to the school bus to the staff room to the principal’s office to media and politics, just to name a few venues.
“We live in a bullying culture, where might makes right and whoever has the loudest voice gets listened to,” Reist said. “Everybody wants to know what is the solution, and really, there is no solution. Bullying has been around forever, and will be around forever.”
On May 2, Reist will speak at Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) about bullying, why it happens, and detail how parents and their children can combat it. Organized by the Dufferin Parent Support Network (DPSN), the event will probably focus on helping parents “bully proof your child,” Reist added.
“The kind of parents that are going to come out to this talk are going to be more the parents of targets than they are going to be the parents of bullies,” he said. “I want to talk to parents about the need to teach your kids resilience.”
Reist suggests three strategies or tactics to follow when dealing with bullying — avoidance, talking back and if all else fails, reporting. For starters, try to stay clear of the person who is causing you trouble; talking back to your bully can also be a preventive solution as well.
“One of the ways you can bully proof your child is letting them talk back to you in the safety of your home. You’ve got to teach them assertiveness,” Reist said. “A lot of people that are bullied have what we call poor boundary definition.”
Reist, who currently teaches at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School, has been educating students for about 30 years and counselling youth for about 10 years outside the classroom on evenings and weekends.
For the most part, Reist mentors children with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), but about 10 per cent of the kids he counsels come to him with bullying-related issues.
“It’d be hard to get through life without somebody using fear to gain power and control over you,” he said. “It happens in the workplace too, it happens in families, parents use it, teachers use it.”