Bullying is not only a problem that is becoming more familiar to people, but it is also one that young children are having to deal with on a regular basis. In fact, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) reports that direct, physical bullying increases throughout elementary school and peaks in middle school, while verbal abuse remains constant. They also report that school and peer factors play a big role in facts that contribute to bullying, making it crucial that schools play a role in helping to create a bully-free foundation.
“When it comes to creating a bully-free environment, early intervention is the key to success,” explains Peter J. Goodman, author of the book “We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats," which teaches kids about bullying. “It is important to start laying the foundation for a bully-free classroom and school right from the start. By doing this, they will be more likely to use what they have learned as they grow.”
To help lay a bully-free foundation, Goodman has taken his popular book and bundled it with an educational curriculum that he co-authored with Karen Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with parents and families. They also teamed up with other mental health professionals on the project to ensure that the lessons would be effective and well received by young students.
The comprehensive package is designed to be used as a tool for teachers, so they can start creating a bully-free classroom while children are in elementary school. The book uses a cast of cat characters that help teach children about bullying, as well as about being accepting of others despite having differences.
The curriculum that is packaged with the children’s book is titled “Bully-Free Students Make Bully-Free Classrooms.” It has been carefully designed to incorporate lessons that help teach about what bullying is, how it makes people feel, how children can identify feelings, and how they can go about making the right decisions when it comes to bullying, teasing, and accepting others.
NASP also reports that school-wide bullying prevention programs have been found to help reduce incidents of bullying by 50 percent. They also advise that the research shows that effective school programs to help prevent bullying should be started as early as preschool and elementary school.
“If we can give children a good bully-free foundation, they will be off to a good start,” adds Goodman. “They will carry that attitude with them throughout middle and high school, and even into adulthood. It’s a matter of making it fun and interesting, and keeping them involved. That’s exactly what our cast of cat characters does.”
Here are some helpful tips for schools to establish and maintain a bully-free campus and classroom:
· Establish a school wide bully-free procedure, and make sure that staff, students, and parents are aware of it.
· Decorate classrooms and hallways with bully-free posters and messages that remind students to be respectful to each other.
· Be mindful of classroom seating, so that it promotes a bully-free atmosphere.
· Hold periodic class meetings and school assemblies to reinforce the bully-free motto.
· Teach children the difference between bystanders and upstanders, and encourage them to be the latter.
Dr. Phil recently pointed out on a CNN interview that 77 percent of the time when there is an aggressive incident, bystanders do not intervene. Yet bystanders make up the majority of the school, making them an important tool in helping to prevent and stop bullying. Part of the bully-free approach taken by Goodman has been to help teach children to become “upstanders,” where they step in and help bring an end to bullying.
The Kitty Cats book and curriculum has been written for children in kindergarten through the third grade. The earlier children learn about the importance of preventing bullying, the better. To learn more about the book series, the curriculum bundle, or to purchase the volume that addresses bullying, visit www.kittycatsbook.com.