In the know - Dealing with name calling

5th September 2008 at 01:00

In toddlers it's a sign of frustration: "Poo face". With limited language skills, an insult is their way of winning an argument. But name calling by older children is often a sign of bullying. It can lead to more serious consequences, even suicide, so how do you stop it?

You must deal with the perpetrators and victims of name calling. Victims need reassurances that it's taken seriously and the perpetrators must understand that name calling, even if they think it is light-hearted, is bullying and has consequences.

The victims

- Discuss it with the pupil to find out the extent of the bullying and how it affects them.

- Offer strategies to deal with the name calling.

- Don't reply or respond to the taunts.

- Ignore the name calling and it is likely to stop.

- Record incidents outside lessons (such as in the playground or out of school) and report the person doing the name calling.

- Teachers should emphasise they will pick up on any name calling and stop it - including trying to deal with out-of-school incidents.

The perpetrators

- Ensure that they know the meaning of the words. Some pupils are ignorant of the offence that names can cause, or their true meaning.

- Explain the effect that name calling can have on someone's feelings.

- Tell them that name calling is bullying and will not be allowed.

- Explain the school's policy on bullying and its consequences.

- Use rewards and praise when they are not name calling.

Some name calling can be subtle rather than aggressive or homophobic, such as calling people or objects gay. Even if the name calling isn't aggressive or rude, it is unacceptable. If the victim refuses to be wound up or to respond, the bully will stop.

James Williams is a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex.

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