Bullying and Making Friends

Bullying is a common concern of many who, too often, focus on treating its symptoms, rather than the cause. Montessori teaching, however, treats the cause of the problem in the environment, pointing especially to the controlling, aggressive, or negligent behavior of the supervising adult. By removing these detrimental influences, bullying behavior disappears to reveal the children’s true natural kindness and respectful attitude towards themselves and others.

In small issues of ‘bullying’, Montessori teaching just allows children to resolve these problems naturally on their own. For example, once I observed a child slap another child hard across the back. In response, the child just shrugged a bit and continued his work. When this happened again to the same boy, he simply shrugged it off again. After that, the bullying child just walked away, and everything was peace and harmony as if nothing had happened at all.

The main idea in dealing with bullying is therefore like this, to remain detached and objective when it occurs, acting as if it never happened at all. Now, for adults, this doesn’t mean to run and hide from bullying patterns when they do surface. Rather, stay close to the situation to protect any child from physical violence. If necessary, you may also help the children resolve their conflict through reflective language and other indirect means. More actively, also, you could lead the offending bully to some work that will interest him somewhere else in the enviornment.

Finally, if bullying continues as a serious pattern with some particular child, contact the child’s parents to obtain their closer cooperation with Montessori teaching at home.