Norms are important to maintain the social codes which enable human interaction. For example, listening when another person is speaking without interrupting can be included in the norm of being polite. There are also broader norm for how to think and act in our lives. One norm that most people can agree on is that every human has equal worth.
These norms are positive norms which maintain a good atmosphere and good relations between people. These norms are not necessarily outspoken or written down, but everybody is still expected to adapt to these norms. Norms can either be structural and apply to the whole society, or local and thereby found in homes, schools and groups of friends. Norms are closely linked to power. Those who are part of the norm have the power to decide who do not belong to the norm and how this person should be treated. This implies that the ones who do not fall within the frame of the norm are dependent on the others’ approval. At every school or sports club there are invisible rules for what’s right and wrong, good and bad, cool and geeky – rules that the students have to relate to. These rules can affect how safe the students feel and what types of harassment that take place.
Using a norm critical approach you question norms and are open to new ways of approaching everything you hear, see and experience in school. When using a critical approach to social norms we focus on how to examine and question how we maintain norms for gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class and disability, hobbies and looks. We also focus on increasing our awareness of how all these factor integrate with each other when people are defined, valued and ranked in our society. The analysis of how different norms affect each other is called intersectional analysis. Bullying is often related to when a student is breaking the expectations of how the be, look, think or do and that’s why it is important to work with an approach that questions what is seen as cool, right or desirable in the school, as well as the class or peer group.