The sorcerers within – bullying among children

publication date 25.05.2009

Let's destroy!

We all acknowledge destroying the work of others is not acceptable. Yet we do it as bits of destructive and aggressive behaviour can show up within us. Can it be prevented? How do children perceive that? For even them commit bullying which can grow into much more serious deliquency later in life.

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Motto: “We have learned everything important for life already in the kindergarten“.

As a communication consultant and coach, I could give more than one proof in support of this assertion. I do not have to look for examples from the world of adults. It will suffice if I remember summer camps where I teach the basics of management and marketing to children aged from 6 to 18. While they play games or do sports, I will soon find out it is not important how many classes of the elemetary school they have passed. Their capacity to succeed depends on how quickly they grasp the principles, whether they orinetate themselves in relationships, how assertive they can be and how they can take advantage of circumstances. 

My friend, herself a nursery school teacher, was wondering whether I would manage, using the method of coaching, a really hot subject. How about dealing with bullying among children in the kindergarten?

A violator sometimes occurs

Although teachers do their best to make children behave in a friendly manner to one another, yet a “violator“ can sometimes occur. Bullying in a workplace constitutes one solid crisis.  How about controlling the same at the kindergarten? In the very evening when my friend Ludmila Kovářová got the idea, working together, we prepared for action that we called “The sorcerers within“. We chose a coached drama fairy tale with active children participation as a vehicle for achieving our end. Under the supervision of an experienced teacher, children were to comment on their behaviour and experience, thus getting the taste of what it is like to be in the shoes of both the aggressor and the victim.

In “Skřivánek“, a Brno-based nursery school, we had a chance to work with eighteen children aged five. Out of their number, we formed two groups: one of princes and the other of sorcerers. Our princes built a fabulous castle of cubes, planted flower beds which they watered while singing to them in soft voices. The sorcerers, on the other hand, were learning aggressive attitudes while tuning deep and harsh voices. They learned how to sing a war-song. When they learned the plan was to destroy the princes´s castle, they knew they were going to do something they should not do. Yet, in a few seconds, they could easily face up to it being ready to go ahead with the destruction job. When it happened, the princes were so astonished they could not manage any oral defence, let alone the manual one. The stress they radiated was almost material. Our aggressors, though, did not feel well either. They were shame-faced not knowing how to behave.

Everything can be settled without losing the face

Subsequently, we offered the children several options how to settle the situation honourably. A moderated conversation was not going very smoothly, yet together we came to understand that, from time to time, everybody becomes an aggressor. The children learned that in everyone of us, both a little man and an adult, there is a bit of a sorcerer who, having caught us unawares, produces his wand and, by means of his magic spell, “makes“ us perform unworthy acts. They understood some people just do not believe they could get what they are looking for in another way but through an attack, a destruction, a lie or a deception. Continuously, we switched to real life situations. At this stage, the children already managed to find answers to many questions, such as what is bullying, aggression, low self-confidence, a personal attack, as well as intimidation. Also, they learned what it is like to have their work destroyed by others and to pay money in a store each time getting faulty goods in exchange. The children supplied their personal experience from families or commercials: a cartoon hero flies in a TV commercial while lying helplessly on the table at home.

A programme for companies, parents and children

I started working with children out of curiosity first, later I was also anxious to find out what could be achieved by coaching them. Anyway, it was tremendous experience which I utilized even in cooperation with companies. In several organizations I was in charge of an education“ programme for employees and their children when we were jointly learning new things and resolving situations. These staged and coached workshops intended for children are unique, for they see their parents in a completely different light than at home. Simultaneously, adults perceive their children as personalities who can manage quite a few things better than themselves. Soft managerial skills, for instance, for they have learned all things important for life in the kindergarten and still remember them well.

How did it all end?

Working together, the sorcerers and the princes cleared up the toys scattered around the room. The princes, too, learned how to sing our aggressive war-song, together they did sports, sang songs and all got a sweet reward in the end. What to say by way of conclusion? Although the teachers no longer engaged the children in these activities, even after months the children spontaneously did sing together in harsh voices:  “Do be afraid, do be afraid … … !“ For there is a bit of a horned little angel in everybody.

Photographs by Ludmila Vítová 

Blanka Sidori Urbánková

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„Our beliefs and actions form our character on our journey through life.“ more >>

Jiří Střelec Jiří Střelec

That holds true the other way around, too. Taking a think to realize what the implications of our thoughts and actions might be is always worthwhile.