Why I Created This Kit
Too many people have been negatively affected by bullying. I have my own vivid memories of mean kids in middle school who made school an unsafe and dreaded place. As a mom, thinking about my kids possibly being bullied one day makes my stomach fill with anxiety. It shouldn’t be this way. Parents should not expect their children to be bullied. How can we make bullying the exception and not the rule? My idealistic self hopes - no, believes - that we do have the power to make a difference. Let’s begin by teaching our children how to have empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
General Information for Parents
Even if your child isn’t a target of bullying, it is important to talk about it so that s/he is prepared in case it does happen to him/her or someone s/he cares about. According to DoSomething.org, over 3.2 million children a year become victims of bullying. So what is considering bullying? Bullying is when teasing becomes intentional and constant, leading to physical and/or psychological harm. It could be hitting, name-calling, mocking, shunning, spreading rumors, or demanding things like money. Kids who get bullied may feel powerless, alone, or unpopular. They definitely feel scared and may have a difficult time standing up for themselves. Bystanders, people who witness bullying acts but do not intervene, may stay quiet because they don’t want to get become targets themselves.
How can you help your child from becoming a bullying target or stop bullying if it is occurring?
Keep lines of communication open.Give your child space to share his/her feelings about bullying and allow other family members to share their own experiences. Sometimes knowing that others went through bullying, too, helps children feel braver. Praise your child for sharing his/her feelings and offer your support. Talk to your child’s teacher and let him/her know what’s going on.
Find a buddy.Children who are alone often become easier targets for bullies. Remind your child to stick close to a friend during unstructured school settings (lunch, recess, before/after school).
Elicit help from an adult.Encourage your child to tell an adult about the bullying situation immediately. Schools take bullying seriously and usually have a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying.
Sometimes kids who are being bullied may be too embarrassed or scared to talk about it. Thus, it’s important to recognize possible warning signs: changes in eating and/or sleeping habits; avoiding activities s/he usually enjoys; feelings of anxiety; mood swings. If you suspect that your child may be being bullied, find ways to bring it up in a nonthreatening manner. You may also want to read a book about bullying or watch a TV show about bullying to start the discussion. Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult like a teacher, therapist, uncle/aunt, etc. Reinforce the idea that bullying is not his/her fault.
Here are some trusted websites for parents with additional information and tips:
General Information for Children
Nobody likes a bully. What’s more, nobody likes to be bullied. If you are being bullied or know someone who is, try some of these ideas:
Stay near adults and other kids. Bullies often do their dirty work when adults aren’t around. Avoid the bully as much as possible.
Talk to an adult and tell him/her what is happening. Bullying is wrong on all levels. Adults like teachers and lunch/recess aides can help bullying stop.
Stand up to the bully by acting brave (even if you don’t feel like it). Tell the bully to stop in a direct, clear voice. If that doesn’t seem like a safe choice, walk away.
Stick with a buddy. Bullies are less likely to tease someone if that person isn’t alone.
Why do people bully others anyway? Well, many bullies do what they do because they have low self-esteem, are lonely, or feel anger about something in their lives. Some bullies are being/have been bullied themselves and turn it around to other people to make themselves feel more powerful.
How can you make the world a safer place for everyone? Be kind to others. Allow others to be who they are and do not tease them for seeming “different”. If you see someone being bullied, tell an adult you trust. Be kind to the person being bullied. Sit with him/her at lunch or strike up a conversation during recess. Hanging out with him/her will help him/her not feel so alone.
Fiction Picture Books:
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
David Shannon is a favorite of the 6-8-year-old set. Here, Mr. Shannon explores peer-pressure and acceptance with the story of Camilia Cream. She cares so much about what others think of her that she ceases to be true self. It takes a special someone (and some delicious lima beans) to shed her anxieties and embrace who she really is, regardless of what others may think.
Lion vs. Rabbit by Alex Latimer
I love, love, love this book. There’s this lion who is the ultimate bully: he gives a buffalo a wedgie, teases a zebra, and steals money from a monkey. Fed up with the lion’s antics, the buffalo, zebra, and monkey solicit help from outsiders. Enter a cute little rabbit who, with the help of some similar looking friends, teaches the mean old lion a lesson he will never forget.
The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
About ten years ago, I was introduced to the concept of bystanders, people who witness bullying but do not do anything about it. The Juice Box Bully delves into this phenomenon with “The Promise”, a pledge that students take to stand up for one another.
Bully by Patricia Polacco
The great Patricia Polacco has a way of pulling you into the worlds she creates and making you feel the characters. Bully, a powerful book for 8+-year-olds, addresses cyber bullying and Internet safety. Like in many of her books, Ms. Polacco encourages readers to accept and respect differences. If you’re looking for another anti-bullying book by Ms. Polacco, try Junkyard Wonders. Just make sure you have a box of tissues close by.
Stop Picking on Me: A First Look at Bullying by Pat Thomas
I love books in the First Look series because they do not shy away from difficult topics and are written by a trained therapist. This book introduces the concept of bullying in age-appropriate text and helpful illustrations. Hopefully, Stop Picking on Me will open up a dialogue and safe space for talking about bullying.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud
This book has become very popular in elementary classrooms across the nation due to its emphasis on character education. The book suggests that each person has an invisible bucket, and each time we are kind to someone, we fill his/her bucket. Teachers appreciate that the book encourages children to be kind to others by saying something kind, helping others, and showing love.
Pinky and Rex and the Bully (Ready to Read Level 3) by James Howe
James Howe has written several books about bullying, including this early chapter book for younger readers. A boy named Pinky is teased because he is best friends with a girl and loves the color pink. After a lot of inner questioning, Pinky realizes that he is happy with who he is and musters up the courage to stand up to the bully.
Horrible Harry and the Hallway Bully by Suzy Kline
In Horrible Harry and the Hallway Bully, the author tells the tale of a power hungry Safety Patrol who turns to bullying. Easy to read and coming in at only 80 pages, this book is perfect for 7-8-year-olds.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Classics are classics for a reason; they hold universal truths that stand the test of time. When I finished reading this book (as an adult, no less), I hugged it to my chest. It tells the story of Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl who is teased by her classmates because she wears the same ugly blue dress to school every day and lives in a poor section of town. Even though Wanda eventually moves away, she leaves a lasting impression on two of the girls who tormented her.
Jake Drake, Bully Buster by Andrew Clements
I really enjoy reading the Jake Drake series with my boys, and this title got us talking about the reality of bullying. Jake, a second-grader, is being bullied regularly by Link Baxtor. To make matters worse, he is paired up with Link on a class project. How will Jake survive?
Rindin by Croc Pond (for iOS)
Rindin is an award-winning animation geared to 6-7-year-olds. Rindin is a friendly puffer fish who gets teased by other sea creatures. He ends up saving the bullies from harm, after which the bullies see the error of their ways. The bullies learn to respect differences in others while Rindin realizes that it’s best to be yourself.
Mama Mae: Mooky by Alicia Keys (for iOS)
This interactive app, set in India, is a multi-layered tale of bullying, acceptance, and forgiveness. It encourages readers to honor differences and show bravery by standing up for someone who is being teased. Perfect for 7 and 8-year-olds.
iDiary for Kids (for iOS)
Children have real feelings in response to real life events, especially when it ocmes to bullying. As such, kids need an outlet to express their frustrations, fears, and triumphs. The iDiary for Kids journaling app lets youngsters use photos, drawings, stickers, and/or textual representations of their thoughts. Being able to self-reflect is an important skill that leads to fostering a strong sense of self and managing stress.
To encourage your child to become an active viewer, ask some of these questions before or after watching the movie/television show listed below:
Based on the title, what do you think the movie/show will be about?
What do you already know about bullying and how to handle bullies?
If you had a friend who was being bullied, what advice would you give him/her?
What was the movie about?
What lesson could be learned from the movie/show?
How was [character] being bullied? How did they solve that problem?
What parts do you like best? Why?
Would you recommend this movie to a friend? Why or why not?
StopBullying.Gov (Online Videos)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put together a compilation of anti-bullying "webisodes" for children. These animated webisodes show how different characters deal with bullies. There’s even a quiz at the end of each webisode to test what viewers know about bullying.
The Ant Bully (Movie)
Sometimes, cartoons can be a preferred medium for dealing with difficult topics (like bullying). This movie provides children with an animated avenue to explore why people bully and how bullying affects others.
“Ten-year-old Lucas is having a tough time adapting after a recent move. His family isn't any help and he's the number one target of the local bully. Lucas vents his frustrations by taking it out the anthills in his front yard. He kicks them, stomps them, squirts them with the garden hose, and fries them with a magnifying glass. The ants are tired of the abuse by Lucas The Destroyer and are ready to fight back! They put a single drop of their magic potion into Lucas's ear, which shrinks him to ant size. He's taken deep below the anthill, where the Head of the Ant Council proclaims him guilty of "crimes against the colony." To earn his freedom, Lucas is sentenced by the wise Ant Queen to live among the ants and learn their ways. He suddenly finds himself in an incredible world teeming with life -- and peril -- that he never noticed or even imagined before. Nurse Ant Hova tries to teach Lucas the ways of the colony and help him find that one special talent he has to contribute, but she has her hands full (all six of them). Eventually, Lucas's newfound "ant skills" are put to the test when he's asked to help his new friends defend the colony against certain annihilation from the local exterminator, in an epic life-and-death struggle waged on the front lawn.” (Common Sense Media)
Matilda started out as a book, turned into a movie, and is now a Broadway musical. There are many explanations as to why it has spanned generations: it is written by the amazing Roald Dahl, it contains elements of magic, and teaches kids to stand up for themselves.
“Based on Roald Dahl's popular book, this fantasy explores themes of youthful independence and personal identity. From the moment she's born, Matilda Wormwood couldn't be more different from her family. Her father is an unscrupulous used car salesman, and her mother (Rhea Perlman) is a ninny who spends every day playing Bingo. Matilda learns to take care of herself, and she's incredibly smart. When her father finally allows her to go to school, it's a dream come true for Matilda. Her sprits sag only a little when she finds that the principal, Miss Trunchbull, openly hates all kids. Fortunately, Matilda's teacher Miss Honey recognizes Matilda's exceptional abilities (which include some telekinetic powers) and becomes her loyal friend.”(Common Sense Media)
The Ripple Effect
Acts of kindness can help to combat bullying. Talk to your child about how small acts of kindness could have a positive ripple, or effect, on many others. Even better, test out the theory in a concrete way with this fun experiment. You’ll need:
A sink filled halfway with water
Various sized objects such as: rubber bands, sprinkles, salt, marshmallows, toothpicks, pebbles (small, medium, and large)
Make a list with the objects on one side and have your child create a hypothesis about whether each object will make a ripple and move the water. Connect an act of kindness to each object based on its size (i.e. small grain of salt = sharing a toy with a friend; large pebble = sitting next to a new kid at the lunch table). Fold a piece of paper in half. On the left, list the objects to be tossed into the sink. Observe what happens as s/he tosses each object into the water and, using the right side of the paper, write down what you see. Is there a ripple? Is it large or small? Next, try to toss a group of objects in, like a handful of toothpicks. How does that ripple compare to the ripple of a single object (toothpick)? What lessons could be learned about acts of kindness based on this activity (i.e. Helping others comes in all sizes but always makes a ripple.)? What are some acts of kindness that you could do at home? School? How do acts of kindness help end bullying?
Self Portraits, the Original Selfies
The more people appreciate themselves, the more likely they will stand up to bullying. Heighten self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-love with a colorful art activity. Before starting, explain that a self-portrait is a drawing of oneself that captures what one looks like to others. Self-portraits help us think about who we are and explore the concept of self. In fact, artist Frida Kahlo, who is famous for her self-portraits, believed that her paintings were a window to her soul.
Take a headshot of your child and print it out. Talk to him/her about what s/he sees. What shapes are present? Colors?
Give your child a pencil, plain piece of paper, and the printed headshot.
Have your child sketch the self-portrait using the pencil. Be sure that your child is using most of the space for the head. You don’t want to draw a tiny head and leave a lot of extra space around it!
Next, color in the sketch. To continue with the idea of personal expression, let your child choose the art materials that s/he wants to use (paints, crayons, pastels, colored pencils).
Let the self-portrait dry before displaying it for all to see.
Suggested Family Experiences
A compliment could be seen as the opposite of name-calling. Play a game of “Compliment Tag” with two or more people. Sit in a circle and choose one person to be “it”. That person has to tag another person in the group but, instead of tagging a person with hands, the person gets tagged with a compliment. This cycle continues until everyone has had a chance to give and receive a compliment. After playing, ask some of these questions:
How did it feel to give a compliment?
Describe what it felt like to receive a compliment.
Is it easy or hard to give a compliment to someone? Why?
How is a compliment like an act of kindness?
How could compliments help stop bullying?
Pinwheels for Peace
A pinwheel is a symbol of tolerance used to celebrate International Day of Peace, which occurs every year on September 21. Pinwheels for Peace is an installation project that began in 2005 by two art teachers from Florida. Essentially, students create and display pinwheels of various shapes and sizes to spread messages of hope and peace. Over the years, the world heard about the project and embraced it, with over 4 million pinwheels being displayed last year alone.
Support tolerance by creating a pinwheel in honor of International Day of Peace. It’s perfectly okay to make one even if the actual day has already passed.
Using this template, cut out the outline of the pinwheel. Before folding or cutting any more, have your child decorate the paper with words or pictures expressing what peace means to him/her.
Cut in from all four corners as seen on the template.
Gently bend one of the cut corners to the center point.
Skip the next cut corner and gently bend the next cut corner to the center point.
Bend the other two cut corners until all four points are at the center.
Stick a straight pin through the four points to the back of the pinwheel.
Stick the pin into the eraser of a pencil.
Talk to your child about the importance of peace and tolerance. What does it mean to be tolerant? How could we make someone feel accepted? How does tolerance relate to anti-bullying?
Raise a child who cares about others. Foster empathy by helping others in need. Bloganthropy has nine excellent suggestions for teaching children about the power of volunteering as a way to make the world a better place. PBS Kids put together a brochure chock full of information about volunteering, different ways to volunteer (Pet Party, anyone?), and picture books about volunteering. In addition, you’ll find ten ways for families to volunteer together, thanks to Parents magazine.
Connections to Other Subjects
An interdisciplinary approach to learning allows children to make connections between various subjects in order to increase learning and meaning making. Bullying could easily be integrated into other subjects such as math (graphing or making tally marks for observed bullying incidents to increase awareness), science (the effects of happiness as well as stress on the body), visual art (using art as self-expression or to take a stand), and social studies (diversity and multicultural awareness). Researchers state that interdisciplinary learning helps children study a topic deeply and understand the links between subjects.
About Sheila F.
Sheila is a Jersey girl (or should we say "mom"), with a passion for teaching and literacy. She is Jersey bred, currently living in Montclair. Sheila has 16+ years working as a teacher and reading specialist and recently completed her dissertation on children's literature and technology. We "met" Sheila through her blog, teachingliteracy.tumblr.com.