Resources for Educators


Dr. Fitzgibbons and associates have given many conferences to teachers, students, school counselors, school administrators, and parents on understanding and resolving anger in children and adolescents.   In 2004 he co-authored in The American School Board Journal an article, Learning to Forgive, for educators on diminishing anger in the classroom by teaching the virtue of forgiveness with Dr. Bob Enright, Professor of Educational Psychology at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Dr. Tom O'Brien, Ed.D., Ph.D., a former superintendent of schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and now an Assistant Dean, College of Graduate Studies at Immaculata University.

 

Dr. Enright's pioneering work on forgiveness education with elementary school students is presented in the DVD, The Power of Forgiveness, available at www.amazon.com. His research in Belfast and central Milwaukee empirically demonstrates that teaching children to forgive in the classroom diminishes their excessive anger. This important work on diminishing anger in students is in the forgiveness education chapter in the second edition of Dr. Enright and Dr. Fitzgibbons' APA Book that has been retitled, Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger in Restoring Hope, Fall 2014.

Selfishness and anger

Conferences are offered for teachers, school psychologists and counselors, school administrators, students and parents groups on understanding and reducing anger in students and in the classroom.  In these seminars one of the major sources of anger in young people is presented which is selfishness.  Selfish students can be highly disruptive and draining to educators.  The chapter on the selfish-angry child on this website can be helpful in understanding the problem of selfishness in students and their parents, its origins primarily in permissive parenting and in the narcissistic culture, the virtues which can diminish this severe personality conflict and parental interventions.

A major problem for educators today is the enabling of selfish behaviors in students by their parents.  The pressure these parents can put on school administrators and educators is so intense that in many school districts/school systems educators also become enablers.  The damaging pathology is often denied when youth act.  Instead, the teacher can be blamed because he or she is unable to deal with the angry, disruptive and disrespectful behaviors in students. 

A Wall Street Journal article, Trophy Kids Go to Work, on this topic in the fall of 2008 related that a Boston-based consultant was coaching a group of college students for job interviews and she asked them how they believe employers view them. She gave them a clue, telling them that the word she was looking for begins with the letter "e." One young man shouted out, "excellent." Other students chimed in with "enthusiastic" and "energetic." Not even close. The correct answer, she said, is "entitled." "Huh?" the students responded, surprised and even hurt to think that managers are offended by their high falutin opinions of themselves, www.online.wsj.com/article/SB122455219391652725.html.

Grade Inflation and Selfishness

In the study cited in the book, Generation Me, Dr. Jean Twenge stated that intellectual confidence of young adults today may have been bolstered by grade inflation, noting that, in 1966, only 19 percent of college students who were surveyed earned an “A” or “A-minus” average in high school, compared with 48 percent in 2009.

Among other things, Twenge and her colleagues found that a growing percentage of incoming college freshmen rated themselves as “above average” in several categories, compared with college freshmen who were surveyed in the 1960s.  When it came to social self-confidence, about half of college freshmen questioned in 2009 said they were above average, compared to fewer than a third in 1966.

Meanwhile, 60 percent in 2009 rated their intellectual self-confidence as above average, compared with 39 percent in 1966, the first year the survey was given.

Bullying

Our clinical experience from treating bully-victims for over two decades is that bullying has increased significantly in our schools and communities, in part because of the growing problem of narcissism in young people. Other important factors are the collapse of marriages, fatherless homes and permissive parenting.  Teachers, regardless of length of service, report not being confident in their ability to deal with bullying and 87 per cent want more training (Boulton 1997). New programs need to be developed to protect children in our schools, to help victims learn how to resolve their strong anger with impulses for revenge, to encourage peers to understand bullies and to support victims, and to provide treatment protocols for the hostility and narcissism in bullies.   These programs should be based primarily on growth in virtues and character development and not on politicallly correct agendas as is occurring in many schools today.

A suicide of a teenager in Massachusetts was the result of severe bullying, www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/03/holding_for_pho.html.  Hopefully, this tragedy will lead to new programs for students, parents and educators on diminishing excessive anger in schools, in cyber bullying and text messaging.

The angry, defiant child who bullies other children in Catholic schools should be required to participate in ongoing treatment with a mental health professional who has expertise in the resolution of excessive anger.  Principals and teachers should communicate with the treating professional to ascertain whether the child is willing to grow in the virtues that can decrease excessive anger such as forgiveness, respect, generosity, charity and kindness.  Given the severe harm caused to children by excessive bullying, if the angry child is unwilling to change and children at the school are being harmed by his/her anger, then we recommend that the parents be informed that the child must be removed from the school.

This intervention can be effective not only in protecting innocent children, but also in helping the angry, defiant child to realize that there are strong negative consequences to bullying behaviors. Also, such a strong correction may be the prime motivating factor that finally leads an angry child to change abusive behaviors and to grow in virtues in the pursuit of a healthy personality.