Posts tagged activities to stop bullying
In the last several years of working as a School Counselor and speaking with professionals, parents and students across the United States on the topic of Bullying Prevention, one of the observations that stands out to me the most is that parents, in general, are very eager to talk about bullying while their kids, on the other hand, seem to want to do anything but talk to their parents about this topic. The more parents pry, the more kids withdraw. The more parents push, the harder kids pushback—with excuses, minimizations, abrupt subject changes, stonewalling, silence, and sometimes even complete denial that a peer problem exists.
Why is it that so many young people are so loathe to talk to their caregivers about bullying? The more I ask students this question, the more often they tell me some version of this frustrated rationale:
“If I tell my parents, they are going to make a big deal out of it and tell everyone what’s happening to me.”
“If I tell my parents, they’ll rush into school to try to meet with the Principal, which will definitely make things way worse for me.”
What can parents, caregivers, educators, and other trustworthy adults do to help a young person feel safe enough to confide in them about a bullying situation? How can you make your child feel supported—instead of embarrassed or endangered—enough to tell you when they really need your help?
When I ask school-aged kids how they would like their parents to respond when they tell them about a bullying situation, again the responses are nearly universal. Most commonly, kids tell me, “I just wish they’d listen.” This is frequently followed by, “I wish they’d give me some advice but let me try to handle it on my own first.”
What follows are five guidelines for parents and professionals on how to listen well and respond in helpful ways when a young person reports an incident of bullying:
1. Stay Calm
First and foremost, when a young person takes the leap of faith to talk to you about a bullying situation, stay calm. Avoid freaking out. The dynamics they describe may be very run-of-the-mill or they may be entirely appalling, but either way, your role as a helpful adult is to listen well and respond as if the situation is completely manageable. The steadfastness of your response will go a long way in shaping the child’s attitude as the two of you begin to move forward toward solutions.
To read the remaining five guidelines about how to listen well to young people so that they will talk honestly about bullying, please visit the original posting at Psychology Today.
While I soak in as much Summer as I can before the 2016-17 school year begins, I am thinking about my own mantras of School Counseling—the most important things I can offer my students to make them each feel heard, understood, safe, and valued. What follows are my Bullying Prevention mantras (along with their slightly longer explanations.)
In One Word: EMPATHIZE
Bullying is a purposeful act of cruelty. Kids who bully show a lack empathy for the feelings and experiences of their targets. Parents and professionals play a key role in cultivating empathy in all kids, especially those who are most likely to get caught up in moments of social whack-a-mole, knocking others down just to pull themselves up the school social ladder.
In Two Words: WORDS MATTER
Okay, I already previewed this one, didn’t I? At my elementary school, many of the students call me Queen Signe. Some of them do it because they like to be silly and others do it just for fun but most of the kiddos I work with use this term because our comprehensive, Every Action/Every Day Bullying Prevention strategy means that we are always talking about the fact that words matter. The way we speak to each other, including the names we use and the words we choose, all have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and how we enjoy our time at school.
Important point: The same applies to how we communicate through technology. Teach kids that the words they text, tweet, send, and post should be used with the same amount of care as the words that they say to someone in person.
For the rest of my mantras, please check out my article on Psychology Today:
My newest book, 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools is now available online and in stores. This review, posted in the Summer 2014 Newsletter from Barclay & Associates, provides a chapter by chapter summary:
Check out the January edition of the International Bully Prevention E-Zine. GREAT read for adults and kids alike. And I’m not just saying that because an article of mine is included.
Try this activity to help kids understand how important their role as a bystander–er, HERO, is in a bullying situation.
Give a child 5 wooden craft sticks.
Ask him to write his name on the first one. Then, tell him to break the stick. The task should be easy.
Emphasize that on our own, we are breakable.
Next, ask each child to write down the names of three people who they know they can count on for friendship and support, on three of the remaining sticks. It can be a parent, family member, friend, or even a pet.
On the remaining craft stick, ask the child to write something that they are good at, such as a sport, art, or even being a good friend to others.
Have the child stack his four sticks, one on top of the other, then challenge him to again try to break the sticks. This time, the task should be impossible.
When I do this activity with kids, usually in schools or troop settings–the expressions on the their faces as they realize the strength of the stacked sticks is priceless every time. I know my point has been made. But I say it anyway:
“When you support one another, and have confidence in your own abilities, you become unbreakable. Keep these craft sticks as a reminder of how strong you truly are!”
My other reminder/mantra to kids, when we talk about bullying and bystanding, is that it is never OK to do nothing about bullying. I have kids repeat the phrase. I encourage them to shout it. Sometimes, we see if the whole building can hear us! I want kids to remember this truism.
This week, in light of the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, it seems especially important.
For more ideas and activites to help kids cope with bullying, please check out Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Cope with Bullying, available November 15, 2011.
A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stomp on it and really mess it up, but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty it was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said… they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home. Copy and paste if you would like to stop bullying.