For close to two decades, schools have been working hard to become “bully-free zones.” Every state in America, as well as most countries, have anti-bullying laws that require schools to protect children from “bullying”. Numerous highly-intensive whole school anti-bullying programs are being implemented in thousands of schools.
Of course, some schools have succeeded in achieving a substantial reduction in aggression. Unfortunately, the overall success of anti-bullying efforts has, for the most part, been less than stellar. Child aggression is often called an epidemic, despite years of anti-bully campaigning. Suicides and shootings are on the rise. Research has shown that the most highly revered bullying prevention programs rarely produce more than a minor reduction in aggression and often result in an increase. A major study from the University of Texas in Arlington found that students in schools with anti-bullying programs are more likely to experience aggression than students in schools without such programs. Another Canadian study found that anti-bullying laws, at their best, reduce aggression by 20%. In fact, researchers have come to see a 20% reduction in bullying to be a sign of great success, a goal to be strived for. This means that schools consider an 80% failure rate to be a highly desirable outcome. Therefore, if we are to rely on popular approaches to aggression, the great majority of students will continue to experience aggression.
There is a good chance that your school, too, has been expending a great deal of time and effort combating aggression, with limited results.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the popular approach to child aggression isn’t working. Despite this, researchers and anti-bullying organizations insist that we need to intensify implementation of strategies that have been failing.
It is time to accept the fact that additional intensification of an approach that isn’t working is not likely to make it work. A more reasonable conclusion is that we need to abandon the failing approach and look for a totally different one. And that is where our “SQUABBLES: Your Game Plan For Aggression” steps in. Our program is based on a dramatically different paradigm of aggression, a paradigm that has been resisted by a dying breed of anti-bullying activists and organizations because it challenges their basic beliefs.
Nevertheless, we expect that you will quickly discover the simplicity and effectiveness of this approach. We also want you to take comfort in the fact that this approach to aggression is not based on new-fangled ideas. On the contrary, as you will discover, it is based not only on solid psychology, but on ancient universal wisdom.
Children continue to suffer, and they deserve help. We welcome you on this journey to discover a different way of understanding and solving the problem of aggression in general. We expect that you will get better results with less effort. Your students will be happier, your job will be easier and more satisfying, parents will be thrilled with your efforts, and you will be able to take satisfaction in the fact that you are equipping students not only for dealing with their social problems during their school career, but for a lifetime.
Our Theoretical Frameworks
SQUABBLES is a researched based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program that takes a psychologically sound approach to minimizing aggression at school, at home, and online. We are a breath of fresh air for the "bully" fatigued education industry. Our research-based theoretical frameworks are why we are so successful. These frameworks include:
Social Learning Theory
The theory that we learn how to be human by observing and imitating others and by being rewarded or punished for our actions (Bandura, 2005).
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
These are tools to help us understand and develop the skills needed to control our emotions, set positive goals, feel and show empathy, create and maintain awesome relationships and make responsible decisions (CASEL, n.d.).
Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)
This is the idea that a kid’s attitudes and beliefs, their environment (home, school, playground, or classroom) and their actions are all connected and lead to certain actions throughout their life. SCT suggests that the central element of behavioral change is self-efficacy, or the feeling that one is in control of his or her destiny (Gurung, 2013).
Transtheoretical Model (TTM)
Teaches us that intervention can be fantastic when it’s the right time and place. For example, during the “pre-contemplation stage,” typically, people don’t know they need to change – in this stage our program shows us that it can actually be easy to prevent aggression without having to be scared of someone wanting revenge (Gurung, 2013).
Health Belief Model (HBM)
Focuses on the good things that happen when aggression is prevented. This model shows us that when kids really know that they can prevent hate, then they will be motivated to do the work (Gurung, 2013).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Suggests that our thinking colors our feelings. In other words, it’s not the event that affects our emotions, it is how we think and what we believe about the event that create the negative feelings (Myers, 2011). The SQUABBLES Game Plan For Aggression teaches kids to think about aggression differently and change their behavior because they become more aware of their negative thinking.
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)
Suggests that the roots to all of our irrational thoughts is aimed toward self, others, and life. (Ellis, 2010). These include the following demands: "I must perform well and receive approval from important people, or I am inadequate. You must be fair and not block my goals, or you deserve punishment. Life must be comfortable and turn out how I envisioned, or it is unbearable."
Our Reinforced Lessons
SQUABBLES has been reverse engineered to target the root cause of aggression: Low Frustration Tolerance. We have therefore worked hard to cure students of their victim mentality by building up their emotional resilience to everyday non-criminal aggressions (squabbles). This is why all of our video training series in our growing library of lessons reinforce the following ten lessons:
Are you hurt?
Students learn that nonverbal direct aggression (pushing, tripping, gesturing that doesn't cause pain) can only cause subjective harm, based on their interpretation of the provocation. They will learn how to build up their physical resilience by expanding their tolerance towards physical provocations. The A-B-C model of REBT is reinforced as it relates to physical aggression. The key intervention phrase is: "Are you hurt?"
Is it true?
Students learn that verbal indirect aggression (rumors/gossip/trolling) can only cause subjective harm, based on their interpretation of the behavior. They will learn how gossip feeds on their upsetness, and how to "kill the gossip" by "starving it to death." The A-B-C model of REBT is reinforced as it relates to verbal indirect aggression. The key intervention phrase is: "Is it true?"
What else can you do?
In this lesson, students learn that nonverbal indirect aggression (avoiding, ignoring, and excluding) can only cause subjective harm, based on their interpretation of the exclusion. They will learn the sociological value of exclusion and why it's important to preserve resources and values. The A-B-C model of REBT is reinforced as it relates to social exclusion. The key intervention phrase is: "What else can you do?"
How could this turn out for your good?
Students learn how to improve their mood from "indifferent meh" to "optimistic glad". They will learn how to see the good in every bad and view themselves as advantageous for enduring the negative event. Optimistic thinking will be introduced. The key intervention phrase is: "How could this turn out for my good?"
Are they bothering you?
Students learn the intention behind aggression, with this first part focused on "bothering, provoking, and psychological domination." They will learn the sociological value of domination and how to avoid being dominated when they don't want to be. They will be introduced to "the law of reciprocity" and learn how to use that law to their advantage through "The Golden Rule". The key phrase to remember will be "Don't get upset, treat them like a friend." The key intervention phrase is: "Are they bothering you?"
Are they hurt by you?
Students learn the intention behind aggression, with this third part focused on "hurting and victimization". They will learn the sociological value of emotional pain and how to empathize with others, seeking to comfort them. They will be introduced to the four types of ineffective apologies and taught how to effectively apologize without shifting blame or making excuses. The key phrase to remember will be "Don't get upset and apologize." The key intervention phrase is: "Are they hurt by you?"
Scaling Mental Health Worldwide
Our aim in creating this program is to provide content, materials, and step-by-step instructions that will help teachers, school counselors, administrators, program directors, and home educators deliver this program with minimal stress and additional resources. Following the lead of successful programs endorsed by educational and psychological scholars and professional practitioners, this program is:
Based on prevailing theoretical (psychological and social) frameworks and evidence from behavioral sciences on human relationships and conflict management.
Applied to more than just school aggression; its core principles are relevant for all relationships, both positive and negative.
Based on effective teaching and learning strategies that reinforce understanding through practice and application of simple core program principles.
Targeted to the appropriate level for intervention – e.g., chronic victimization, occasional aggression, etc.
Adaptable to fit appropriate developmental, cultural, linguistic, social, or physical differences, etc.
Scalable for use with individuals, small groups, classrooms, and large audiences.
Customizable for any desired timeframe and intervention level.
Equally adaptable to community, home, and school - parents, siblings, teachers, administrators, students, community leaders can benefit from it.
Simple – to understand, learn, and execute.
Quick – produces positive results almost immediately.
Efficient - requires a relatively small investment of budget and personnel resources.
Sustainable through an easy train-the-trainer model.
We at SQUABBLES, like so many other organizations and individual practitioners, researchers, and theorists, believe the answer to reducing aggression and its often-tragic effects lies in building resilience and social and emotional competence in kids (Cornell & Limber, 2015). By putting kids at the center of the solution and fostering their internal fortitude to overcome bullying on their own, schools will be in a much better position to reduce the potential for legal conflict, while at the same time increasing prosocial behavior among students and staff members, thus creating a more open, inclusive, and collaborative environment.