“Kids can be cruel” is a saying that’s been around for a while, but we’re finally coming to understand the tremendously harmful impact that cruelty can have. To address that, Michele Borba, Ed.D., wrote End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe, and Caring Schools. In the book, she shares a number of ways to end peer cruelty and here are ten of my favorite suggestions by Dr. Borba that are things parents can do at home to end peer cruelty.
1. Hold family meetings to practice speaking out, respecting differences, decision-making, and active listening.
2. Ask your child, “How can you act kindly toward others during the day?” Encourage small acts of kindness by kids to counteract bullying, like sharing their lunches, saying hello, smiling.
3. Expose kids to “quiet” heroes—Rosa Parks, Pee Wee Reese, Gandhi—so they realize upstanders can make a difference without saying a word.
4. Discuss telling or reporting (wanting to help a person stay out of trouble or help so they don’t get hurt) vs. tattling or snitching( wanting to get someone in trouble).
6. Stress the Golden Rule: “In this home we treat others the way we’d like to be treated. How do you want to be treated?”
7. Teach kids bullying (cold, calculated, intentional cruelty, power imbalance) vs. normal conflict (disagreement, difference of opinion, both have equal power).
8. Show kids how and where to report bullying: online, text, phone, report box, or all.
9. Teach how to CARE about bullied peers.
Connect. Stand closer. Show concern.
Advise ways to help.
Report. Offer to tell an adult.
Empathize and Encourage. “I’m sorry.” “It must hurt.” “You didn’t deserve that.” “That happened to me.” “It’ll get better.”
10. Find meaningful service experiences that match a child’s interests, strengths, and abilities and involve face-to-face contact to boost empathy.
Our children learn best when they feel safe, and we all have a role to play in creating safe schools. Parents can take steps at home that can make a big difference when their kids get to their classrooms. What would you add to this list?
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