The Take A Stand Program has been created to teach specific interpersonal skills to children and their families. It has its roots in who children are, what they can do and what they need to know to grow up feeling safe and valued.
Because bullying is an activity that takes place among children and because stopping bullying is something most successfully accomplished in the community, the most effective way to teach prevention of bullying is in a group situation. For that reason, the materials are written in a format that is user-friendly for teachers or group leaders. To assist you in this process, the guides for each age group will walk you through what to say, what responses to expect, what role-plays to use and how to follow up. Each day provides discussion outlines, role-plays and follow-up activities. It covers all the common – and some not so common – concerns children express, with the accompanying explanations.
This guide, however, is only a tool. You should feel free to use the materials in a way that is consistent with your own style and comfort level, and the needs of the children you are working with. For example, you may break the activities down into smaller parts, adapt the role-plays to your community, or change some of the language to make it more appropriate to the developmental level of your children.
Children are directly affected by their perception of their own well-being. If we talk to them in a way that makes them feel fearful or insecure, we heighten their sense of vulnerability. Understanding this is central. Children who are frightened have fewer options and less self-confidence to handle life events effectively. On the other hand, when we talk to children in a way that makes them feel confident, capable and informed, they can actually be more effective in protecting themselves.
Take A Stand is most effective when the five sessions are presented about once a week. This allows time for the children to utilize the skills and begin to see changes. Change over time is the goal. Revisit the program about once a year. This allows the children to learn new skills as they mature and keeps the concepts fresh for all age levels every year.
Adult Role in Prevention of Bullying
As soon as children begin to interact with others, we can begin to teach them not to be bullies and not to be bullied. We can give them words for their feelings, limit and change their behavior, and teach them better ways to express their feelings and wishes. Children do not learn to solve these kinds of problems and get along by themselves. We need to teach them.
When preschoolers begin to call people names or use unkind words, intervene immediately and consistently. By age 6 or 7, children learn the power of exclusion. We begin to hear things like, “She’s not my friend and she can’t come to my party.” You can respond with, “You don’t have to be friends with her today, but it’s not all right to make her feel bad by telling her she can’t come to your party.”
In the early school years, cliques and little groups develop which can be quite exclusionary and cruel. Children need to hear clearly from us, “It’s not all right to treat other people this way. How do you think she feels being told she can’t play with you?” Kids don’t have to play with everyone or even like everyone, but they can’t be cruel about excluding others.
Boys who are physically small or weak are more prone to victimization. Making fun, picking on and other forms of bullying need to be identified in their earliest stages. The message needs to be crystal clear. “This is not okay. Think about how he must feel. How could you include him and let other kids know it’s not all right to treat others this way?”
Children who are not bullies or target of bullying have a powerful role to play in shaping the behavior of other children. The most powerful way to stop bullying is to teach every child to speak up on behalf of children being bullied. Speaking up and saying, “Don’t treat her that way, it’s not nice.” or “Hitting is not a good way to solve problems, let’s find a teacher and talk about what happened.” Can stop bullying in its tracks!
While the Take A Stand Program methodically introduces concepts and skills that are age appropriate and can be used daily as children learn to address interpersonal conflict more effectively, adult intervention and guidance is a necessary part stopping bullying.
Children learn by doing. Role-play is what makes prevention of bullying and interpersonal conflict real for children. There is a fundamental difference between a “concept” and a “skill.” This is important for parents and schools to understand because stories, videotapes, coloring books, etc. only teach concepts.
Role-playing is what takes concepts and turns them into skills. Actually walking through situations and having the children practice different responses is what takes the information from the level of a concept – or an idea – to a skill that is learned in the “muscles” and will never be forgotten.
It is like the difference between understanding how to ride a bicycle and actually being able to ride a bicycle. Role-play, merged with discussion and activities, enables children to learn the skills in their muscles. This is what allows them to actually intervene on behalf of themselves or others in real life situations.
The process of teaching role-playing is one of discussion first and then actually walking through a scenario, applying the concepts to real situations and learning how to implement the concepts with skill. This is usually a process of successive approximations based on your coaching.
Most children begin a role-play not being able to implement the very thing they were just talking about. As you act out a situation, you want to coach children to communicate effectively, utilizing eye contact, clear and straightforward language and consistent body language. Each time they role-play, children improve and feel more comfortable taking action. This comfort level – advance preparation for life – is what will enable them to use the skills in their peer group and community.
Most people are uneasy about role-play in the beginning. But it is really what we do every day. We walk through how to handle a business meeting or a conflict with a family member. We think through how to handle getting the baby and the dog and the groceries into the house. The difference in the classroom is that we act out solutions rather than just thinking about them.
Victims vs Targets
I do not refer to children who are the target of bullying behaviors as victims because they do not have to be. When a child is targeted for bullying, s/he can stand up, ask for help or choose to ignore the bully. Children who are targets of bullying can also learn new skills and move on. Victim implies permanent damage. While this can be true for children who are long-term targets or who experience trauma from bullying, we do not want to paint every child who experiences bullying with that brush.
Intervention with Children who are Bullying
Children who engage in bullying behaviors need to be dealt with consistently and effectively. Bullying should not be overlooked or excused. We know bullying behavior only escalates as children get older and the ramifications for bullies and the group as a whole are significant.
DO NOT BLAME. Do not get into a discussion about the “whys” of what happened. Your discussion with a bullying child should focus on several key points:
- Bullying is not acceptable in our school, family or in society.
- If you are feeling frustrated or angry or aggressive, here are some things you can do. Then provide concrete examples based on the current situation.
- Role-play or act out the new behaviors so your teaching is experiential. Remember that role-play is the key to changing behavior!
- Ask, how can I help you with this? Who could you go to in school if you see yourself getting into this type of situation again?
- Specify concretely the consequences if the aggression or bullying continue.
- Your objective is to stop the behavior, understand the child’s feelings, then teach and reward more appropriate behavior.
© 2016 Sherryll Kraizer, Ph.D. Used with Permission
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