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Bullying Behaviour

What is Bullying?

Bullying can occur in any environment. It is defined as exposure repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more people. Bullying happens, on average, every seven minutes on elementary school playgrounds. It most often happens while others watch and it does not stop when victims are left to deal with it themselves.

Forms of Bullying

  • Physical – hitting, kicking, pushing, etc.
  • Verbal – insulting, teasing
  • Psychological – threatening, excluding, making fun of others, gossiping

While the reduction of bullying can be accomplished by peers and adults intervening immediately when bullying is happening, it can also be prevented, to some extent, by the tone of the classroom and through activities which promote group cohesion.

Setting a Positive Tone in the Classroom

  1. Have clear expectations – Use visuals to help the children to know what is acceptable in the classroom. Establish rules as a group and have the children write or draw the rules. Post the list of rules in a visible spot in the classroom. Refer to the list when a child is not complying with the rules.
  2. Include activities to build self-esteem – Children who bully often have low self-esteem and being a victim can lead to feelings of rejection. All children benefit from activities that emphasize their own strengths and those of others. Children who bully learn to value their peers. Activities include:
    • Making a friendship tree with leaves made from the children’s handprints. Each handprint has qualities their peers like about the person whose name is on the leaf.
    • Friendship bracelets – Each person adds a bead to the other’s bracelet while saying something positive about their peer.
    • Making a helping hand – The child traces their own hand and then writes 5 ways to help others (one on each finger).
    • Superhero books – Have each child draw and/or write about what they would do if they were a superhero.
    • Make a “Hug Book” for each child to receive on their birthday. Each peer decorates a page (or half-page) and writes something they like about the birthday child.
  3. Educate children about bullying – Teach specific strategies so that the children will know what to do (whether they are a victim or a bystander). Provide strategies for children who bully others to help them stop the behaviour.
  4. Have the child who bullies admit the behaviour, apologize and atone for the action – The child who bullies must perform some act of kindness for the bullied child (with teacher direction and consent from the child bullied).
  5. Include cooperative, nurturing games/activities in your curriculum – Make sure the child who bullies is involved in these activities. Initially, the activities could be introduced at circle time or in large-group activities with all the children. Then, more of these activities could be used in a small groups. Make sure that the child who bullies is part of the small group. An adult must always facilitate these activities.
  6. Include activities/stories to build empathy in your curriculum – These activities can be done in the large group and also, emphasized individually with the child who bullies. An adult must facilitate the following activities:
    • Board games/lotto games designed to help a child build empathy
    • Books
    • Worksheets
    • Scripted role plays that use puppets/the children themselves. Make sure that the child who bullies plays the role of a victim to help develop empathic understanding.
  7. Use a reinforcement schedule – As well as clear consequences for bullying behaviour, use a reinforcement chart to reward the child for appropriate interactions with others. Initially, begin with a short time expectation to promote success. Make sure that the reinforcer is highly rewarding for the child. A token economy could also be used.
  8. Break the pattern – When possible, record incidents of the bullying behaviour to help identify a pattern, a particular situation and/or who the child targets. Break the generalized bullying pattern by creating a structured activity plan (in your head, at least) for the child who bullies by giving the child a variety of helpful chores to do (e.g., help bring chairs, help set out activities, help set out snack, set the table, put out cots, wash tables, etc.) Praise the child for all successful activities.
  9. Help the child to learn appropriate outlets for anger – Help the child learn to recognize the signs of anger/agitation which lead the child to bullying. Then, help the child to find appropriate outlets for these emotional responses by:
    • Using books/social stories to teach anger management
    • Using games (e.g., circle games that teach impulse control and body management skills as well as games that teach appropriate anger responses)
  10. Role play – Use puppets /children.

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