RYC Youth Educator Jessica Lodato helps Rye's 3rd graders understand "bullying". Read on to be In Sync with what the kids are learning about bullying.
Together with the 3rd graders, we defined a bully as someone who is mean and hurtful to other people over and over again. Importantly, we took time to explore the difference between bullying and a generalized conflict.
Bullying happens all the time, but sometimes it becomes the “go to” title for all social discomfort in elementary school. It is important to know the difference. Inappropriately labeling a conflict as bullying can lead to unfair accusations and labeling of an individual, and can turn a simple disagreement or unthoughtful moment into something bigger than maybe it needs to be.
Bullying can be a hard situation, whereas a conflict can be a great learning experience for both parties involved!
True bullying creates a sort of “meanness pollution,” which can make school a stressful place. But it doesn’t stop there. When someone is being bullied it’s not only the person being bullied that is suffering, but it also affects the family of the individual being bullied, the bystanders watching the bullying take place, and even the Bully themselves!
The children identified that someone who bullies probably has something going on themselves. For example, maybe the Bully is working through some difficult emotions, or maybe they had been bullied and are following a bad example.
We explored the insecurity of someone who bullies, and how they try to feel bigger by making others feel small. The children even explored empathy for the person who probably bullied the bully in the first place! The kids had some wonderful insights!
As a group, we discussed some of the different types of bullying such as physical violence, teasing and spreading rumours, exclusion, and cyber-bullying. The children were familiar with and knowledgeable about these different types, and they shared many stories, thoughts and ideas.
Almost everyone experiences being bullied at some point, and the children practiced “finding their voice” in those incidences when they are the target of bullying. We spoke about remaining calm and strong and identified different ways of saying no. The children practiced through role play, and they did great!
Here are some of the strategies that we discussed for dealing with a bully:
1. Don’t give the bully a chance: Avoid the Bully! Steer clear of someone who is bothering you.
2. Ignore the bully: All bullies, no matter what their method, want the same thing: a reaction!
3. Get a buddy and be a buddy: Two is better than one! Bullies are more likely to pick on someone who is alone. Make a plan with a friend to hang out together when heading to places where you might be bullied.
4. Tell an adult: If you are being bullied, it is very important to tell an adult. Find someone you trust and talk to them about what is happening to you.
5. Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander! Whether you stand up and be a friend in the moment or you report an incident to an adult, stepping up to help someone being bullied is something to feel really good about.
6. Speak up to the bully: Let them know that their behavior is not okay. You can grab a friend and approach the bully together. There is power in numbers!
Here is the tough question that the children had to ask themselves:
“Have I ever bullied anyone?”
Every kid has a choice to be the kind of person they choose to be. Sometimes even the best of us get caught up and behave in ways that make other people feel uncomfortable.
The children were given a survey entitled, “Am I a Bully?” Based on the responses in their surveys, thank goodness, not really! The survey served as a terrific catalyst to discuss some of the more subtle ways in which we can be unkind to each other, which when repeated over and over again, could in fact be labelled as bullying.
It's good good to check in with ourselves and ask ourselves questions to make sure we are on track to being our best selves and treating others with kindness and respect. So from time to time we need to ask ourselves the following:
1. Am I being inclusive: Am I open to including everyone?
Outside of school and group activities we may have special friendships that we are happy and proud about. You may be lucky enough to have your best friend at school with you and that’s great. It is great to have special alone time with a good friend or someone with whom you share a common interest, but the schoolyard is not the place for those moments. School is about inclusion not exclusion. If the game played is for 3 people and a 4th arrives, then the game needs to be changed. School is the place where we all learn to play together, and to compromise. School is the place to develop new friendships and have new experiences.
2. Can what I say be said out loud?
Words that need to be whispered in public create a conversation that should be had in private. Whispering around other kids makes them uncomfortable. It creates another type of exclusion.
3. Am I teasing others?
Playful joking among friends can be great fun, but sometimes joking gets used the wrong way. Sometimes joking around can go too far and hurts someone’s feelings and we may not realize it. Other times people joke when they are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or do. Joking becomes teasing when someone’s feelings get hurt and there is no empathy. We need to be sensitive.
4. Am I being accepting of our differences?
We should celebrate our differences because they make our world a wonderful and interesting place. There are times that our differences might make each other uncomfortable and that’s okay, if we remain respectful and inclusive. If we tease others and exclude them for their differences, then we are on our way to bullying.
These questions are a great way for the kids to check in within themselves and become more self-aware of their behavior, how they think and how they conduct themselves day to day.
Being aware of oneself leads to better communication and success in living a happier life.
And that can never hurt.