A method for finding bullying
behind the backs of the teachers

How serious is the British Government when, through its DCSF, it proclaims safety for all children and young people?

The official site of the DCSF –  www.dfes.gov.uk –  starts by stating  its purpose:

“The Department for Children, Schools and Families leads work across Government to ensure that all children and young people
  • Stay healthy and safe”
Probably, among all the governments of the world, the British Government, through the DCSF, demonstrates most clearly its commitment to the safety of children and young people. After reporting an excellent whole school programme, that resulted in the reduction of physical bullying to 5%, the DCSF considers that this: “… is still very high”.  (Our italics.)

Why cannot whole-school-programmes reach bullying that is clandestine to teachers?
The usual whole-school-programmes against bullying involve teachers in the role they have inherited from their own teachers: inculcating good norms in pupils. New approaches have appeared. Pupils participate in drama performances about bullying. They are caught up in declarations condemning discrimination.  But as regards know-how for management of current cases, the directions for these programmes are most often scantly worded.

Research about the results of these whole-school-programmes or measurement kits demonstrate, indirectly, that bullying remains a problem. One of the most known producers of these programmes (Olweus) demonstrates through questionnaires a diminution of 70-50% which means that 30-50% were not affected by the programme! So it is understandable that these programmes are made complete with supervision of school playgrounds. Supervision cameras that are effective for preventing material damage are certainly useful in diminishing physical bullying. But if they should appear in so great a number that they reach every corner, the school would seem like a supervised institution which would be unbearable, at least for teenagers.

Peer supporters can certainly notice clandestine bullying better than teachers but not all of it. Discovery and treatment of bullying cannot be left to selected or chosen young representatives of law and order (or authorised friendship promoters). Some of them could develop into top-dogs. They have to be complemented by adult anti-bullying teams. But how could they become capable of discovering bullying that is not observed by them or their colleagues?

The present home-site appeals to the school authorities to reach out to the school personnel who already have understood that discovery of bullying behind their backs is, more or less, dependent on the pupils’ appreciation of the method used for treating tangible cases of bullying.

Why can SCm claim the highest probability in detecting bullying that is clandestine for teachers?
I suppose that all concerned (school personnel, parents, politicians and the press) are unanimous that when a teacher sees bullying here-and-now, his or her duty is to intervene immediately or to fetch help. No special methods are needed, just the courage to be spontaneous. Our method-and-motivation discussion deals with cases where bullying is reported to an anti-bullying team of adults that has the skill and responsibility to deal with it. Hopefully, this team is sensitive to the fact that bullying occurs that is clandestine to adults.

Our guideline is that co-operation with pupils is decisive for treatment and for discovery as well. The Shared Concern method, SCm, is a process of treatment that has been developed through feedback from the pupils involved.  How to validate a method is a question of values of education.  If you evaluate principles for participating democracy you will probably appreciate the following evidence:

The new idea of therapeutic mediation, SCm, is presented in class discussions about the usual methods of dealing with bullying. It gains so much appreciation and trust from the young people that they write the names of “those who need help” on a questionnaire. The adult makes immediate contact with those mentioned, starting with the question "Which of your classmates would be interesting for me to talk to in a manner we discussed in the class?".

What is it that gets teenagers to appreciate and trust SCm? Their answer can be summarised: it is the non-guilt-finding approach of SCm – concentrating the discussion so strongly on a shared solution that the question of culpability so peripheral that it practically disappears. The  prerequisite for such an outcome is that SCm is presented by a person who knows it thoroughly.


SCm realizes the superior guidelines of the school without jeopardizing safety for both victims and bullies. 

SCm is limited to cases where conflict prevails between identified parties. Bullying is an asymmetric conflict. (One of the conflict parties is stronger.) The remedial power of SCm is released in individual talks.The adult’s constructive ignorance (explained later) opens the trust of the pupils. A shared concern motive is triggered in the bullies; they are aware that they themselves can be the target of violent group dynamics.

In practice, SCm-users – following therapeutic mediation – have so far succeeded in eliciting shared solutions between the parties that also coincide with the norms of society. However, if it should happen that the safety of the victim is not achieved by SCm, the bully therapists can put an ultimatum indicating the possibility of  involvement of the head teacher. E.g. to move the bullies to other schools (separate from each other).

It is important to observe that it is not meaningful to say that  the use of SCm is limited to easy cases if implying that the "easiness" or minor aggressiveness could or should be diagnosed beforehand. I myself have dealt with young toughs who were classified as very violent and my collaborators have treated destructive pupils, but we have gained their confidence that amounted to shared solutions. That does not exclude that one day we would not meet a case where a friendly contact cannot be achieved. The decisive thing is that you trust your own self-confidence emanating from your attentive unprejudiced listening, something that the violent pupils probably have not experienced before.

An other thing is that if you are beginner in SCm, you gain your first experience with cases you, subjectively, perceive as "easy". If you are satisfied with your results you go on with cases other people may consider "difficult".

Or:  I do not recommend doing it the other way round, i.e.: one cannot start with severe methods and, if they fail, try a shared concern approach thereafter.

A section for those who are interested in the theory: teacher’s role in the pupils´ conflict can be described in three paradigms
The origin of a conflict is often a tiny event or a small preference. The decisive thing is escalation of a little conflict or teasing that grows into bullying. The role of the teacher becomes significant in escalation. It is known that pupils follow the deeds more than words of the teachers. This means that a transfer of the teacher’s behaviour pattern to the pupils occurs. Three basic patterns of teacher intervention occur.

The decisive thing in these three patterns or paradigms is in what way the teacher’s ego is alarmed by the behaviour of the pupil suspected of bullying. In order to clear-cut the relevant mechanisms, we will use the term "I-thou" relationship between teacher and pupil. We use the psychological term "ego-alter" connection.

  • The first paradigm. The teacher’s righteous ego administers "measures" against the pupil’s culpable alter within the frame of law. This is the most natural (primitive) reaction. The pupil perceives the teacher’s power to decide what measures are righteous. Most of the bully suspects feel that this is a kind of bullying. They later transfer the teacher’s righteousness to their own measures  against the victim.

  • The second paradigm is the opposite  to the first one.  The teacher’s understanding and loving ego meets the pupil’s culpable alter with the intention of incorporating him in the community of good people. The benevolent feelings and aims in the teacher are supposed to be transferred to the bully suspects. The power of love is expected to elicit a metamorphosis; the formerly evil person is invited to enter the realm where nobody is a bully or victim.

  • The third  paradigm. The teacher eliminates the ego-alter relationship to the pupil. This is an elaboration of the loving reaction of the second paradigm. It contains quite new elements. Its tool is SCm that purposely displays constructive ignorance about the culpability of the bully suspect that encourages him or her to tell what has happened. The teacher takes the role of a therapeutic mediator who guides the parties involved to a shared solution, acceptable to society. The adult’s listening approach to the bully suspect is transferred into a cooperative approach of the bully suspect to his former victim.  A self-image of solution-seeking ego is created in the former bully. The less the persuasion from the teacher the firmer the agreement made by the former antagonists. The teacher’s ego gets its ultimate satisfaction when they convince him that the concord will last and that it coincides with the goals of the school and society.

The third paradigm is a goal that in most people releases an anxiety of commitment before they come to think about the advantages it may have. They answer by reflex: "I have so many other things to do".

My most important argument for inducing school personnel to study and practice a method that can discover clandestine bullying is: the time you use in learning SCm makes a clear profit. If you read more of this home-site you will discover how. If not, please write to  anatol@pikas.se 


We explore why some people find SCm "difficult" and compare it with others who find SCm inspiring

I have a friend amongst lecturers at a teacher training school who offers his students a list of books on bullying from which they have to choose one to write a review about. Several of them are about bullying. A minority chooses my book on Shared Concern method, the majority prefer other books on bullying. "Because SCm is so difficult", my friend explained, but did not elaborate further. Anyway, the few who chose my book well understood its message.

The people who come on my courses in various countries have been attracted by the label "shared concern". I suppose that they seek an alternative to the first punitive paradigm and expect to find the second paradigm  as described above. I tell them all to read my book on SCm (in Swedish) or its manuscript of English or Estonian.
The learning-by-doing approach in my workshops deepens the participants’ appreciation of SCm and at the end they understand SCm as a third paradigm – the paradigm of therapeutic mediation. After a week or two I write to participants asking them to tell me about their application of SCm. I ask them to tell me if there is anything in the method that, after their testing it out in work, could be changed. Of my letters to about 80 persons since 2003, approximately 30 have not answered.  The answers I have received can be divided into two categories:
  1. "There have been so many other important things to do in the school that I have not had the time to apply SCm." (Sometimes with the addition: "There has not been much bullying in our school recently.")

  2. "I applied SCm some days ago and was astonished to find that it works. Certainly, no one case is exactly like any other."
I have explained the reaction in the first mentioned group by their inability to manage in reality what we exercised in the role-plays: to listen to the pupil in order to discover the tiniest indication that could later be developed to a shared concern.

In the other category, correspondence developed with 8 teachers and 10 school psychologists with many letters going back and forth. In the Autumn 2007 I started with 5 teachers discussions (in three countries) about strategies for "selling" SCm to those head teachers who would consider discovery of clandestine bullying as important. We ask: "Do you know any other method that can do this?"

The words in itself give a kick of excitement
Sorting through my observations about the press and politicians and the majority of teachers, I have after many years found a physiological process that governs us: as soon as the word "bully" appears, an enemy image, stored in the brain, surfaces. It gives a kick of epinephrine (adrenaline), providing a boost. To condemn bullying satisfies the need to be in company with others who think in the same way. It increases the excitement and hence, dependency of bullying as a kick-start device. People in general have become addicted to the concept of bullying.

Here we find the conditions for the fight against bullying. That’s why the products of the excitement industry – mass media – follow the pattern I have called the first paradigm.

I presume that hundreds of people who publish results of their fieldwork with SCm (or MSC) follow as a contrast the second paradigm – the paradigm of love and attention to the disorderly pupil. Let me assure you that we are on the same side. United in our opposition against those bully fighters who (according to the pupils) “bully the bullies”. But I encourage you to study the third paradigm – SCm – that I hope I have expressed here more clearly than before! Try it also in application!

Teenagers in class discussions have had less time to become addicted to the words "bully" and "bullying". Young people have a more open and flexible conception of these words. In their tangible reality, identification of "baddies" and "goodies" may shift. They feel my approach of therapeutic mediation fits in with their view that the most important thing is to aim at a shared solution.

Those staff members who have corroborated their insights with SCm may get inspiration to transfer the paradigm of therapeutic mediation to the pupils by a programme called All in the Class Become Mediators. ACBM.


A simulating question for the future is: could the employers of teachers provide resources to those teachers who have understood that bullying, clandestine to teachers, can be disclosed with the third paradigm?


Some teachers can understand something more: that the paradigm of therapeutic mediation follows an operational programme that contributes to the improvement of the atmosphere in the class. Some politicians can even grasp that pupils, who have acquired insights in therapeutic mediation by learning-by-doing, can also realize this peace creating concept as adults. And above all – that they are going to elect their political representatives according to their capacity to apply the paradigm of mediation.


I hope that if those who make decisions about schools of the future school will read the present home site, and realize that SCm is operationalizing the ultimate goals of democratic co-operation.

If you are teachers in a school who have been practicing methods in the direction here described, please write to me anatol@pikas.se and tell about you work and your ideas.

A summary intended to school authorities
Proactive work in dealing with bullying consists today of enlightenment about the frightfulness of bullying that leads to declarations against it. Exercises in good social behaviour in normal situations are arranged, but also supervision of school playgrounds and corridors. This method approach does not reach pupils who do not identify with the norms of the school. Dealing with bullying that occurs is characterised by "serious talks" is, however, deficient and partially counteracts prevention and discovery. When parents of the victims complain, the head teachers maintain that the school has used "scientifically investigated methods" when dealing with bullying.

The Shared Concern method, SCm, emanates from the necessity to discover and treat clandestine bullying. SCm is validated by the approval of pupils in class discussions that result in their giving the names of those who "need help".  These are immediately involved in therapeutic mediation leading to a shared solution. In accordance with general psychological experience of transfer of behaviour, the operational approach of SCm imprints the conduct of pupils.  Or: to the same extent as pupils follow the action of teachers more than their words, the treatment of bullying with SCm has proactive consequences.