Like many other topics that are covered in the media, the issue of bullying is a worrisome one. Many parents are fearful that their child will be bullied at school. Luckily, there are powerful ways we can support our children so they have something to fall back on should the situation arise. One emerging approach is that kindness and mindfulness can stop bullying in its tracks by giving kids tools to calm their brains and bodies and experience kindness and community firsthand.
Recently, I interviewed Linda Ryden, who heads up the Teaching Peace program at Lafayette Elementary School in NW DC. Teaching Peace is a weekly special (like music or art) for kids in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades where they learn about kindness, responsibility, conflict resolution, mindfulness and appreciating our diversity.
Linda relayed some of her thoughts on Teaching Peace and bullying prevention, “My goal with the whole Peace program at Lafayette is to create a culture of kindness. The two most important factors in preventing bullying at school are changing the school climate and allotting class time to social emotional learning. Most bullying takes place during lunch or recess when children are not with their classroom teachers. At Lafayette we have so many clubs in addition to Peace Club, there is really something for everyone. I would also encourage parents to talk to their kids about the role of bystanders in bullying.”
Linda explains that few children will readily admit to bullying someone, but the fact is that bullying only happens because adults and children are letting it happen. Kids who feel connected at school are much less likely to bully, to be passive bystanders of bullying and to become victims of bullying.
She suggests that parents encourage their children to get involved, to find groups or clubs that interest them so they can develop a little community within the community at school.
It is also vital that parents talk with kids about how they can use their power to help others. Below are some ideas for what kids can do when they see someone being teased or picked on:
- Refuse to laugh when someone is teasing
- Stand next to someone who is being picked on or teased
- Help the victim move away from the situation
- Make sure to include someone if they notice they are usually all alone.
There is no absolute way to protect our children from every danger, but fostering a dialogue with our kids about what they see and do on the playground and at recess is an important start. Connecting to our own feelings, memories, and experiences of growing up is another way we can help. Sharing and listening to pertinent stories paves the way for our kids to feel more confident should an issue of bullying present itself.