“Our bullying assemblies are simply lecturing us to not be the bully, when we should be informed about WHAT WE SHOULD DO when we get bullied. Many of us aren’t bullies, but we are victims.” Middle School Student
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among children and youth that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Making threats, spreading rumors, excluding someone from a group or attacking others (physically or verbally) are some examples of bullying. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 1 out of 4 students report being bullied during the school year (2015). Unfortunately, many more students are bullied (64%), but they don’t report it.
The quote that opened this post comes from a recent study of students’ experiences in middle school. Many students expressed that bullying was a problem at their school, and were frustrated with the amount of attention being placed on the negative behaviors, instead of teaching students ways in which they could deal with those behaviors. Anti-bullying programs now include strategies to develop self-efficacy in those that witness bullying, the bystanders; but these programs aren’t always that effective. Recent studies (Pryce & Fredrickson, 2013) have found that whole school-bullying programs have not resulted in significant reductions of self-reports of bullying and victimization. Considering how damaging bullying can be for children and youth, what can we do to address bullying in and out of the classroom?
Many programs are shifting their focus from bullying to the promotion of prosocial behaviors in schools, such as empathy, perspective taking and kindness. Research has found that students who display high levels of kind behavior are likely to engage in less aggressive behavior, therefore leading to reduced interpersonal conflict among students. These programs focus on teaching positive behaviors and engage students to make a difference in their communities. This shift reflects a strengths-based approach to education, where teachers ask “what are the strengths and positives attributes of the learners I teach?” instead of “what’s wrong and needs fixing?” (Binfet & Gaertner, 2015).
Focusing on kindness means that we approach the inevitable discomforts and pains in life with balance and compassion, cultivating care and love both in our hearts and minds. Kindness has been reported to support a significant number of benefits for students and adults:
Increased connection and trust. Being kind produces endorphins, which activate areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust.
Increased sense of belonging and improved self-esteem. It is simple: being kind to others feels good! Studies show that even small acts of kindness improve our sense of well-being, energy level and give a feeling of optimism.
Increased feelings of gratitude. Being generous with others less fortunate helps students and adults appreciate what they have, and it fosters empathy.
Better Concentration and Results. Kindness enhances positivity. Children with a positive outlook have greater attention spans and show more willingness to learn.
Less Bullying. Kindness fosters positive behaviors and it creates a safe and supportive school environment for students.
Need some inspiration?
Watch this video from the Puget Sound Community School, a school where kindness is the foundation of everything that happens at the school.
Ready to bring kindness to your school?
Three Good Things. Have students write three kind acts they performed that week. Create a space where students can share. Discuss the emotions that kindness produces.
Start morning announcements with a kindness quote or kindness idea.