As parents, we can often question whether our child would tell us if they had a problem with bullying and whether they would feel comfortable confiding in us. From a different perspective, we may question if they’ve ever been a bully themselves and if we encourage kindness in them enough to prevent them from becoming a bully.
As bullying is a problem that concerns parents, pupils, teachers and childcarers, we need to work together to find ways that we can get involved in solving it. With current government initiatives such as the Anti-Social Crime and Policing Bill there are continuing steps in the wider community to tackle this issue.
Here are eight ways to encourage kindness and tackle bullying.
How You Can Make a Difference
1. Be responsive.
It’s important that we adults set a good example for the children in our lives. So it’s down to us to be role models who are in-tune with the feelings of others. Responding to your baby’s cries, your toddler’s slips and stumbles, and acknowledging your child’s feelings will build a stable emotional base that boosts your child’s ability to feel for others.
2. Name emotions.
Help your child to build an extensive ‘feelings vocabulary’. One way to do this is to let them hear you use words that explain and describe how you feel. For example, you might note, “I feel disappointed because my friend cancelled our coffee catch-up” or “I’m proud of myself for finishing my project early.” That way when children need to express their feelings or the feelings of others, they’ll have the vocabulary to do so. This should go for negative emotions too: describing negative feelings can help children self-regulate their reactions whilst still being able to show emotions that are socially acceptable.
3. Use their characters as examples.
Discuss the feelings of your children’s favourite characters, in books, in films or on TV. This is a great way to help children observe feelings as it’s unthreatening and detached. Ask questions like, “How do you think he felt when that happened? How can you tell?” and “Has something like that ever happened to you?”
4. Pick-up on body language.
A huge amount of emotional communication is nonverbal, so it’s important that children are able to interpret facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. Encourage your children to interpret the mood of a character on TV with the sound turned off. There are some fantastic picture books out there too, so when you’re reading to your children make sure you connect the feelings of characters to the illustrations.
5. Stay close to others.
If another family loses a loved one or is celebrating an accomplishment, ask your child to help you send a card. This will encourage an understanding of appropriate responses and how others may be feeling.
6. Volunteer together.
Join in with the community and help others together – it’s a great way to develop an understanding for other people’s situations.
7. Take advantage of teachable moments.
‘Restorative justice’ may sound like a bit of a mouthful but it is simply helping your children to understand the consequences of negative behaviour, so encourage them to do something kind for someone they may have upset.
8. Be aware of their kindness and your pit-falls.
Point out the impact your child’s empathy has on others. If they include someone in a playdate or help out at home, let them know this has made someone else feel good! On the flip-side, it’s important that we adults admit if we got something wrong: sometimes children need to know that we are not perfect either.
The best time to start teaching kindness is now! And don’t be surprised if teaching your little one compassion pays off in the form of a closer bond between the two of you. Acknowledging your child’s perspective, making them feel safe to share their feelings and providing an example of kindness and caring can all add up to a better relationship as your child grows.
This blog was first published on Care.com.