Bullying is one of the greatest challenges facing schools today. Research indicates that some styles of sensitivity are more likely to be associated with the various roles in bullying than others.
For example the children most likely to be the target of bullying are those with high sensory processing sensitivity, referred to as highly sensitive children. 20% of children are born with this trait and as a result tend to have a gentle, caring and cautious temperament with the ability to think and feel deeply. Interestingly however, research has also found that this is not true in non-Western cultures, where children with a sensitive style are in fact the most popular.
Highly sensitive children notice the subtleties in the environment and may have dramatic reactions when upset, much to a bully’s delight. They tend to be non-confrontational and therefore are perceived as weak, vulnerable and easy prey by the more confrontational styles in our culture. This is a long way from the experience of being a highly sensitive child in a non-Western culture where such a child is considered by others as being well-behaved and as having understanding. (Elaine Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person). This goes to demonstrate how much of a role culture plays in attitudes towards sensitive people. Two of the four sensitivity styles are associated with high sensitivity.
The children most likely to demonstrate bullying behaviours are those with lower levels of sensory processing sensitivity and a high need for sensation seeking. This combination is another of the four sensitivity styles. Children with this style are resilient, active, energetic and risk taking. Of course this is not to say that all children with this sensitivitystyleTM will demonstrate bullying behaviours by any means, but it is useful to be aware that even when it is not intended, the actions of children with this style of sensitivity can sometimes be perceived by other styles as intimidating or aggressive.
The sensitivitystyleTM program helps children and teachers identify and understand the strengths and vulnerabilities for each of the four sensitivity stylesTM. It also provides age appropriate tools and activities to help the different styles develop skills to get along with each other more respectfully and successfully.
The program is effective in reducing bullying behaviours and in building a more caring and respectful culture. It is suitable for the preschool and primary school environments.
For more information on the sensitivitystyleTM program for primary and preschools, please contact me.