I was an anti-bullying consultant with a rural school district early in my career. One day I was leading a focus group with 5th and 6th graders about how they felt about the school’s culture and rules. One boy said in frustration, “I know what I’m not supposed to do, I don’t know what I am supposed to do!”
I think about this boy often as I teach children positive social behaviors to replace negative ones. Telling children “bullying is wrong” should be the beginning of an anti-bullying conversation, not the end of it. In the Respect Program we provide a variety of tools to children to help them regulate their emotions, build confidence, and stand up to a bully without becoming mean. This way, when they are thinking about bullying someone or need help dealing with bullying, they know what they are “supposed to do!”
The Respect Program empowers children to stop bullying by:
1) Creating art, acting, and writing so they can find new hobbies that give them confidence. Hobbies are also a great way to make new friends.
2) Participating in role plays where they practice different ways to stand up to a bully without becoming mean.
3) Journaling, pounding on clay, and doing other safe creative activities to deal with their anger and frustration.
4) Thinking about the kind of person they want to be. For example, we discuss the importance of being kind, even when you have nothing to gain, and keeping the promises we make to others.
What are other effective strategies to stop bullying in your school or community organization?