Strategies To Prevent Bullying in the Classroom
Even in preschool, you have to make sure your classroom is not the setting for bullying behaviors: making mean faces, threatening, grabbing, pushing, or refusing to play with others.
According to a publication from the Education Development Center’s toolkit Eyes on Bullying: What Can You Do?, you must “create an environment that supports respect, where bullying is neither accepted nor tolerated.”
Two major strategies for creating this type of environment are to help children develop empathy skills to be able to understand the feelings of others and assertiveness skills to prevent being victimized by others.
To provide an opportunity for children to practice skills, such sharing, problem-solving, and the ability to express and understand feelings, and to build confidence so they can stand up for themselves when playing with peers.
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future Know Kit Cards(for 3 to 4 years and 5 to 6 years).
Note: These are the 8.5x11 cards found in the Educator’s Teaching Tools and can be used with the whole class or with small groups.
- Construction paper and art supplies.
Print out several copies of the front and back of appropriate Know Kit Cards, based on your students’ ages and abilities to express themselves. For example:
From My Feelings Cards for ages 3 to 4:
- “What do you do when you get angry?”
- “How do you feel when you learn to do something new?”
- “What makes you happy?”
From My Feelings Cards for ages 5 to 6:
- “What do you do when a friend hurts your feelings?”
- “What makes you laugh?”
- “What scares you?”
From My Friends Cards for ages 3 to 4:
- “What do you do if a friend takes away your favorite toy?”
- “When are you the leader?”
- “What do you do to make friends?”
From My Friends Cards for ages 5 to 6:
- “What would you do if a bully threatened your friend?”
- “Do you do everything your friends do?”
- “Why do you like each of your friends?”
- “How do you make up with a friend?”
On the First Day:
- To help children develop empathy skills to prevent their bullying others or to help children who are being bullied, it’s important to help them identify and express their own feelings. Choose one or two appropriate cards from the My Feelings group, and use the questions on the back of the cards as group discussion starters.
Add your own questions to focus the discussion on bullying. For example:
- An appropriate followup question for “What do you do when you get angry?” would be “How does it feel when friends or family take their anger out on you?”
- Or, for “What do you do when a friend hurts your feelings?” you might ask children to talk about the times they have hurt someone else’s feelings. What did they do? How did it make them feel? How did the other person feel? How did they make things better?
After the group discussion, guide students to see that even though each of them is different from the others, their feelings are the same. Each of them can feel angry, happy, or scared.
- Give small groups of students art materials and a printout of one of the cards used in the discussion. Have the children create pictures to illustrate what different feelings look like to them—happy, angry, or sad faces; actions that cause them to feel happy or angry; or colors that might represent different feelings. Help children label the feelings represented by their artwork. Post these around the room to help continue the class discussion on feelings and empathy.
On Another Day:
- To help children develop assertiveness skills to avoid being bullied, it is important to help them understand how to work and play with friends. Choose one or two appropriate cards from the My Friends group.
Have two or three children stand up and then ask, “What would you do if a friend takes away your favorite toy?” Or ask, “What would you do if a bully threatened your friend?” Guide them to role-play the situation. What would they say to each other? What would they do to help? Where could they go if they can’t work it out themselves?
- Begin a class list of positive ways to play with friends. For example:
- Learn to say “No” politely, but let your friends know you mean it;
- Accept “No” as an answer when friends say it to you;
- Speak clearly and directly to your friend so you are not misunderstood;
- Ask for things from your friends, don’t take them;
- Share things with your friends, but tell them when you would like those things back;
- Don’t do things just because others are doing them;
- Stand up for your friends if others are hurting them; and
- Know where to go for help, if there’s a problem you can’t solve.
- Look for books on bullying in your library, and share these as the occasion arises. While reading, pause and ask the children, “How would you feel?”and “What would you do?”
- Print out appropriate copies of the Building Blocks for a Healthy Future Know Kit Cardsfor children to take home and talk about with their family.
- Create a Positive Ways to Play With Friends bulletin board in the hallway or media center. Start the list, but ask others to add their ideas, too, with words and/or pictures.
- Find more Building Blocks for a Healthy Future resources to support your efforts to help prevent bullying in your classroom:
- Stop Bullying in the Classroom guides role-play activities and uses the “Power Positive” song to help children feel good about themselves and their relationships with others;
- Peer Pressure: Learning to Say “No” helps young children learn to resist pressure from their classmates; and
- Poems of Respect helps children learn to treat one another and the adults in their lives with respect, using terms such as please, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry.
Remember: If you have any concerns about a particular child’s unexpected change of behavior, talk with that child’s parents or caregivers to see if any recent changes have occurred in their family. Talking early allows parents to be aware of any issues and make adjustments immediately, if necessary.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Stopbullying.gov is a website with resources, tools, and videos to educate parents, children, and community members to prevent and address bullying.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The SAMHSA Blog, October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, provides information about bullying and its impact, as well as strategies on how everyone can and should take action against bullying.
Effects of Bullying On Your Child’s Mental Health: Advice For Parents And Caregivers provides tips for parents and caregivers to understand what actions they need to take to stop bullying.
Stopping Bullying Behaviors: Advice for Parents and Caregivers provides sound advice on ways to stop bullying in the school environment.
The following online resources provide excellent tips, information, and resources for parents and caregivers:
Education Development Center , Inc.
Eyes on Bullying: What Can You Do? is a toolkit that provides parents and caregivers of preschool and school-age children specific insights, strategies, activities, and resources to prevent bullying in children’s lives.
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