There are no lessons, instead an anti-bullying workshop is on the schedule at Alt Duvenstedt Primary School (Rendsburg-Eckernförde district). Children sit in a circle of chairs, coach Katharina Shalinsky in the middle. Children hold paper hearts that they previously cut out. In turn, they chant sentences that burned themselves painfully in their minds. “I was told I was stupid,” one of the girls said defiantly. “I was told I couldn’t go to goal because I was so bad,” adds a boy softly. After each sentence, the children fold their paper hearts. After the tour, the children revealed them again. “What do you notice in your heart?” Katharina Shalinsky asks. A girl replied: “I have a tear.” “Exactly. Everything that was said leaves an imprint on my heart.”
Helpless Advice: “Just Ignore It”
Katharina Shalinsky’s experiences also shaped her. At the workshop, I told the kids about it: “I pushed off my bike on my way home, and people said I was ugly. In the end, I didn’t enjoy life at all.” Teachers in particular reacted helplessly at the time, downplaying the attacks as “childish pranks” and advising her to simply ignore the attackers.
Coach Shalinsky: Parents often find it difficult to recognize bullying
Today, teachers are becoming more sensitive to the topic of bullying, says Katharina Shalinsky. On the other hand, parents are often still confused and may not even notice when their child becomes a victim of bullying. According to the PISA study published by the OECD in 2017, every 15-year-old student is affected. They might be warning signs when kids drop out, don’t want to see friends or go to school anymore, or when grades drop.
Affected children remain silent out of shame
Katharina Shalinsky recommends parents ask questions when in doubt – sensitively but persistently. Whether the child likes to say what is happening – for example, whether there is something mean written in a chat group. Many children need time before opening up. “Many are very embarrassed when they admit to their parents that they are being bullied.”
Bullying expert: Anyone can become a victim
Bullying is always a mass phenomenon, says Philip Behar Kremer of the association Cybermobbing Prevention in Berlin. In the beginning, there is always a group that wants to remove someone from the group, according to the social worker. Anything can be used against the victim: a speech impediment, an unusual hobby, a pair of glasses, or the wrong brand of athletic shoes. As a rule, the whole class is gradually drawn into this dynamic, while the victim withdraws more and more, reacting with fear or even aggression. “At some point this can only be stopped from the outside,” says Philip Behar Kramer.
Break the cycle instead of punishing the bullies
A particularly effective method is the “no-blame approach”. This is not about punishing bullies. Instead, the victim of bullying must be reintegrated into society – eg in the classroom. For this purpose, a small working group is formed within the class in which the bullies also participate. “They ask first what they’re supposed to do on set,” says Philip Behar Kramer. “Then we emphasize the children’s strengths, telling them, for example: You have something to say in class, you can inspire others.” The group then works together to develop a support plan for the student who is being bullied. Ideas are collected on how to reintegrate the outcasts in the class, for example by going to the cafeteria together. Impact: The victim of bullying is no longer shown in front of the class.
What helps: Education, civic courage, media skills, and the formation of a strong bond between classes
In her workshops, Katharina Shalinsky wants to show children that everyone has his place in class society and that it is important to accept others with all their peculiarities and whims. You also talk about what can lead to bullying. The fact that some victims see no way out and attempt suicide on their own will shock and shock many people. However, it is also important to understand young criminals. She says that many bullies tease others because they lack self-confidence. Philip Behar Kramer holds that parents are primarily responsible for living out values such as ability to handle conflict, moral courage, media skills, and empathy. Then your child will probably be the one to raise their voice when a classmate is being bullied — or get help if he or she is affected.
Help is available here
Victims of bullying who want to talk about their problems anonymously can call the counseling service day and night free of charge at 0800-111 01 11. In severe crises and suicidal thoughts, the psychiatric emergency ambulance can help, and there is also help on the emergency number 112.