“Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; you feed him for a lifetime.” This ancient saying expresses the simple wisdom that the best way to help a person is to teach him to help himself.

The following saying is attributed to U.S. president Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

If people are capable of fishing, we do not help them by always giving them fish. In fact, we prevent them from becoming independent and responsible. We also deprive them of the sense of fulfillment that comes from developing their skills and taking care of themselves.

When we see our children being treated badly by others, we feel sorry for them and want to help. So, we get involved, trying to protect them from each other and solving their problems for them. And we often find ourselves doing it over and over again for the same children.

But we are not really helping them; we are hurting them. We’re preventing them from learning to solve their problems on their own and instead, teaching them to be dependent upon us.

So many bullying researchers have been informing us that we have to defend children from one another because they aren’t able to defend themselves. But this doesn’t help them. The belief that students need to defend themselves from other, more aggressive students, is a trap. Defending oneself is a sure way to lose and it actually reinforces bullying. The experts who tell us that children can’t make the negative effects of bullying stop on their own simply don’t know how to teach children to do it.

When we teach kids how to deal with bullying on their own, we help them for a lifetime. That should be our primary focus in school and the best way to help students. Bullying goes on throughout the lifetime. It happens more in the workplace than in school and even happens at home, among family members. Our responsibility is to prepare children for the academic and intellectual challenges of life, not to protect them from those challenges. Our job is also to prepare children for the social challenges that are an inevitable part of life.

Teaching children how to handle social challenges is not difficult. In fact, it is much easier than teaching them how to read, write and do math. Children just need a trustworthy method of instruction. Empowering students to solve their own problems is the moral approach.

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