Partnering with parents when their child has been involved in a bullying situation is hard but important work. No parent wants to be the recipient of a phone call saying that their child has been bullying others. Learning these skills in elementary school, a safe environment with adults who want what’s best for them, is the best place and time to learn them. In school, when a child can’t figure out long division, we teach them. When they struggle with sounding out words, we teach them. When they are bullying other students, we need to teach them too. Use these three steps as a starting point at home.
Empathy is having the ability to recognize how another person is feeling in a situation. It is a skill that can be taught and developed. Have your children pay attention to their own feelings in different situations and ask them leading questions in regards to their peers. Here are a few to get you started:
- How did your friend feel when they scored the soccer goal?
- How was your classmate feeling when they sat alone?
- When they tripped on the stairs, how do you think they felt?
Reading stories together is a great way to open children’s eyes to others’ experiences, struggles, and feelings. Many children’s books follow the narrative of the “underdog protagonist” and the “bully antagonist”. Have discussions surrounding the feelings and actions of the characters as you read together. Here are some to check out:
- “Enemy Pie” by Derek Munson
- “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes
- “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson
- “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
- “Restart” by Gordon Kormon
Have Boundaries in Place
When you notice your child does something kind, give them verbal praise for their words and actions. On the contrary, when they do something out of bounds, have a plan to discipline them for boundary crossing words and actions. By clearly defining what is right and wrong, they will make informed decisions and know the positive or negative consequences that will come. Always remember to have a discussion within the discipline as that is where the teaching lies.
This blog post was written by Annie McKeighan, 4th grade teacher in Lincoln, NE