Bullying prevention should begin from the day your child is old enough to play with other children. One is never too young to learn about kindness. We learn about kindness the first time our mothers gently swaddle us in their arms. As your children grow, you can choose from a myriad of activities that will introduce them to a diverse group of people.
Conversations Worth Having with your Children:
- Talk to them about diversity. Tell them all people are the same on the inside. We want the same things…respect, kindness, and a feeling of belonging.
- Talk about feelings. Regularly share your feelings with your children and encourage them to share theirs with you. Talk about all the different kinds of feelings people can have.
- Don’t simply react to their negative feelings. It is better to respond. Ask about the feelings and the behaviors and discuss better alternatives to tantrums or negative actions.
- Model, Model, Model. In their early years your behavior will be the cornerstone of your children’s social/emotional development. They will learn by watching you. By middle school, peers exert a greater influence on children’s attitudes and behaviors than do parents. Make sure you model the behaviors you would like to see emanate from your children while your influence is greatest.
- Talk about sharing, about taking turns, and about conflict resolution. Let them know that life is replete with conflict, but that conflict can be managed peacefully and result in satisfaction for all parties.
- Don’t look at your children’s playtime as your time off. Observe their interactions with peers and step in to adjust their behavior when necessary.
- Make a clear, consistent set of behavioral rules for your children and a fair set of consequences for when those rules are broken. Follow through consistently!
- Teach them the importance of respecting everyone they meet; teachers, bus drivers, recess aids, store clerks, EVERYONE.
- Make it a personal policy to care as much about the social/emotional development of your students as you do about their academic achievement.
- Talk about feelings. An emotional check-in at the beginning of each day helps children learn to recognize how they are feeling as well as empathize with others who are feeling sad or uncomfortable in some way.
- At the beginning of each year create a social contract with your class. Have the students offer suggestions as to how the class will function as a group. Included should be listening to each other without judgment, respecting everyone, letting everyone’s opinion count, no name-calling, no ridiculing, no excluding people, no gossiping or spreading rumors.
- Establish clear and concise rules of behavior along with fair consequences for failing to follow the rules. Be consistent.
- Be familiar with your school’s anti-bullying policy.
- Work with other teachers, administrators, and staff to create anti-bullying programs on classroom and building levels.
- Be a trusted adult. Encourage your students to come to you with problems, either academic or social/emotional. Unless abuse is reported, maintain their confidentiality when it is asked for.
- Listen actively to their stories. Take their feelings seriously.
- Establish procedures for reporting bullying behavior anonymously.
- Don’t disregard any reports of bullying. Investigate. Speak to both parties, but not necessarily at the same time. Targets can feel threatened and aggressors will not talk in situations where they are put together.
- Document all bullying incidents.
- Set aside time periodically to discuss bullying. Initiate a discussion of social media and the responsibilities that come along with having access to electronic communication devices.
Throughout this toolkit you will find suggestions for creating physical, social, emotional, and moral safety in school.