It’s a hot topic! We want to make sure we are doing what we can to help our kids not become targets of bullying, not choose bullying behaviors, AND to help others when they witness bullying. It is a big responsibility for not only young children and their families, but also for schools. Together, though, we can help prevent and stop bullying.
I recently discovered a book called One, by Kathryn Otoshi, that I have started reading to my kindergarten through 4th grade students. In the story, the main character is a color named Blue. He is quiet and likes being who he is, until he is picked on by Red. Red says, “Red is hot, Blue is not!” repeatedly to Blue and no one tells him to stop. Eventually Red’s power over all the colors grows and it’s not only Blue who doesn’t have the power to stop the bullying. The story then introduces the character One. He is a gray colored 1, who shows the other colors that they “count” and in the end, even Red is invited to count. This book brought out some great discussion about the feelings of the different characters and the things they did that helped change the story to a happy ending.
What is bullying? I explain to the children that bullying is an intentional unkind act, done repeatedly to a person who does not have the power to stop it. It is never an isolated act. It is never an accident. It is never a two-way street. The definition is important because when it is truly a bullying incident, we have to treat it differently than a conflict between two people. In a conflict, you can sit the two people down and help them resolve the problem. It would be unethical to sit a bully and the target down and try to make them work it out. The bully might feel he/she has more power over the target and make them feel as if he or she had done something wrong. It is also important to know the definition because when we use the word incorrectly, the word loses its power.
What can students that witness bullying do to help? This video, targeted to younger students, outlines the four things they can do if they have seen someone bullying: http://www.safeshare.tv/w/eDBiOciONc. They are simple steps that empower bystanders to help their school be safe. We want to empower our students. They need to feel like they can make a difference and do not always need to rely on someone else to solve problems for them. They need to practice these skills so that as they get older, they will feel confident in their abilities to help stop bullying. The four strategies are: 1. Be a buddy by showing everyone the target has friends who are there to help. 2. Interrupt the bullying with some kind of distraction. 3. Speak out against the unkind behavior and let the bully know it is not okay. 4. Tell someone who can help, especially an adult.
Also, I tell the children that if we value all people, even if we don’t see eye to eye, it will go a long way toward making our school a place where everyone can work and play without people feeling the need to be unkind. For example: when they are partnered with someone who is not their best friend, give them a smile anyway. When someone wants to play with a different group at recess, take the opportunity to find a new friend or play a new game. Being a child is not easy, but these moments provide your child the chance to learn new ways to be resilient. We do not have to be unkind to stop unkindness. We do not have to see every slight as a life altering moment.
Finally, our 4th grade students made a video that I presented to older students. Please watch and see our students in action! (All students are acting and no one was actually hurt in the taping of this video!) https://youtu.be/t1XbZ7bf-08 We thank you for partnering with us to keep our schools free from bullying!