Bullying is a problem that can potentially begin well before middle school. Many programs and educators focus anti-bullying initiatives with middle school children, but many bullying behaviors may start earlier. “Young children are especially vulnerable if they lack assertiveness, have difficulty setting limits to demands by peers, or if they tend to withdraw from peers (Alsker & Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, 2010). Brightside Academy’s programs focus on developing strong and confident children; therefore, we created activities to educate our children and families on how to handle bullying for National Bullying Prevention Month.
Christina Sibley, Education Director at our Plaza location in Philadelphia, noticed children bullying each other about their appearance, disabilities and skin color. In an attempt to get ahead of the situation, she began to spend more time in the school age classrooms, talking to the children about the things they were saying to each other. Our school ages classrooms range from 5 years –12 years of age.
“I always make sure that the children know that no matter what they can come to me and talk about any problems they have, no matter how big or small. I was always told to make sure that you have an adult you can trust if you feel you can’t go to your parents. And I want to make sure that these children know that they can come to me,” stated Christina Sibley.
Anti-Bullying Classroom Activities
Christina created activities to discuss bullying at the academy and how their mean words and actions impacted each other. She had them write down what bullying meant to them and for them to tell me a time that they felt bullied. They made a list of the words that they said to each other or heard being said to a friend and after that they all signed a pledge to no longer bully their friends. The list was posted in the academy so the parents could see how the children acted towards each other. The parent’s response was very positive and they committed to discussing bullying at home as well.
A second activity involved reading a story about Flat Stanley and how he made friends with his bully. The children then traced one chosen person from their class and cut the body out. They then passed around Flat Stanley and said something mean to him and called him names and with each name that they called him they crumpled a piece of him. When they were finished all they had was a ball of paper, after they were finished they were told to pass around Flat Stanley and apologize to him for what they said and unfolded a piece of him. When they were finished, Flat Stanley was laid out and a discussion took place relating to how even after the children all apologized for the mean things that were said Flat Stanley still had marks, rips and “scars” all over him that could not be taken away from an apology. They discussed that in doing this they cannot take back the things they say, and though they apologized, their words still leave marks on their friends.
Click here to read the Flat Stanley story that inspired this activity .
The last activity involved pairing the children up in groups with someone that they had been mean to throughout the summer. Each group was given a tube of toothpaste and was given instructions for one person to squeeze all of the contents out and the other person was to try to place all of the contents back into the tube. This was to represent that while it may be fun when they are being mean to each other, once those words were spoken, they cannot be unsaid and sometimes la big mess is left for someone else to clean up.
Accountability and Outcomes
After the completion of these activities, Christina saw improvements at her location. The children being held accountable for their actions are holding each other accountable for the things that are being said. Our parents have really been hands on with helping rectify the situations that have occurred and the children discuss when they are upset with someone else in their room or at school. Our staff and parents continue anti-bullying activities to create a positive atmosphere. We thank our staff and parents for their positive roles in the lives of our children and helping shape their futures with leadership and communication skills.
Talking to your Kids about Bullying
Stopbullying.gov has some great tips for talking to your kids about bullying. Check out these great resources to start the discussion at home.
- Help kids understand bullying. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage Kids to Do What They Love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
Has your child ever been bullied? How did you handle the situation? Tell us your experiences in the comments section!