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Crying for Help
the No Blame Approach to Bullying
What is the best way to deal with a bully? Do you get the victim to identify the perpetrator, thus risking retribution and further incidents? Often the victims will remain silent for fear of reprisals but if they are brave enough to identify those whose behaviours are causing distress, what is the best way to deal with them. "Conventional" approaches will often require the bully to be punished in some way and show them the error of their ways. Certainly parents of victims want this sort of justice, but is this the best way?
Not according to George Robinson and Barbara Maines it isn't and they say so in their book "Crying for Help - the No Blame Approach to Bullying". I have briefly described the approach in this month's article and it is one that was devised as a result of a specific request to the authors to help alleviate the suffering of a particular individual. I was especially struck by the following quote:
"the seriousness of the bullying can only be measured by the effects that are experienced by the victim"
Essentially the approach looks to identify how the victim is being affected by the bullying and then uses a support group made up of peers, colluders and perpetrators. By not blaming or punishing anyone, the group are encouraged to take responsibility for the problem and deal with it. And from the testimonials in the book it seems to work.
Robinson and Maines set the scene for the book by discussing bullying in schools and society and by looking at the frequency of bullying in schools. At this early stage in the book you could be forgiven for thinking that it is an academic text full of statistics and quotes from stuffy academics. However, read on because the value of this book can be found in the numerous accounts about how the approach has worked. Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a victim, or even a bully you will get something from this book because it looks at the approach from all angles.
The most telling part of the book for me was the account of how the approach worked for a girl called Anna. Having read the whole book there was nothing really remarkable about her particular story other than the fact it was featured in a Girls magazine some 4 years later under the title of "I'm best friends with my bullies". The magazine interviewed Anna and those who had bullied her (who had now become her friends) about their experiences from 4 years ago. Remarkably the No Blame Approach had worked and its success continued to be felt even after such a long period of time.
Robinson and Maines explain how to use the approach through accounts from teachers who have used it and to me this third party endorsement is testimony to the power of the approach and is an excellent way to impart the message to others. Each account is skillfully linked by the authors and it is clear that they have tried to be as impartial as they can be and have let the stories speak for themselves. They don't offer the approach as a universal panacea to the problem of bullying but it seems to me that No Blame is a good place to start and so if you have to deal with bullies, the first thing you should do is get hold of this book.
Crying for Help - the No Blame Approach to Bullying by George Robinson and Barbara Maines ISBN Number 1 873942 86 9 is published by Lucky Duck Publishing at Ł10.
[see also this month's Article on this subject, and the note at its foot]
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4th March 1998: