Three animals meet, a lion, a mosquito and a sheep… What sounds like the beginning of a joke has a much more serious background: Viola Einsiedler starts teaching children anti-bullying strategies. “There is an urgent need for a uniform approach to the topic,” demands the 32-year-old social scientist: “A lot of the advice given to the children affected is counterproductive.”
In Austria, every fifth young person experiences bullying from classmates at school – this was the result of an OECD study a few years ago, which attested Austria the inglorious first place when it came to bullying at school. “Parents look for action strategies, children experience feelings of powerlessness,” says Einsiedler. Even if not every provocation or insult falls under bullying, many children are afraid of getting caught up in the bullying spiral.
“An example of such a situation is when children take your cap and the child then starts running back and forth between the others.” One has to ask oneself how important the Kapperl is, says Einsiedler. “It is important that children do not get this feeling of powerlessness,” says the counselor for bullying prevention.
Boundaries must be clear
Another solution strategy could be to repeat the same sentence over and over again. “KZP, that’s what we call ‘get to the point’.” However, one limit is always clear – as soon as an assault becomes physical, “it never has to be regulated by a child, but always by an adult. Physical injury is not bullying.”
Einsiedler herself experienced bullying when she was young, both on her own body and on her brother. “He went to a special school and was picked up by a disabled bus. The others in the village shouted ‘Behindikindi’ and similar things. At first my brother waited outside the house for the bus, then behind a stair nosing, later inside.”
It would probably have helped her to approach situations with a different thought construct, she says. “If I hadn’t blamed myself.” Because if two kids are told they look horrible in their hats, the first one thinks I’ll never put it on again, while the second doesn’t care about the other’s opinion.
“In the course we learn to characterize such statements as flatulence in the head.” Many children grow up thinking that what their neighbors or grandma think of them is incredibly important. The most important opinion is always the one about yourself. Einsiedler offers courses to teach kindergarten and elementary school children strategies that protect them from bullying – so that mosquitoes can learn to feel and behave like lions.
info: Bullying prevention courses for children between the ages of five and nine last four hours, cost 49 euros per person and take place in Vöcklabruck. Dates and further information are below www.violaeinsiedler.at to find.