Written by Mim Stephens – Year 3/4 Class Teacher
Let’s face it, we all want our kids to have happy, calm school days. The reality is, they won’t always experience a happy and calm day. School days can be bumpy, but life is bumpy! So how so we help our kids navigate these bumpy days and when do we step in and declare ‘bullying’?
Kerry Street Community School takes a strong stance on bullying. We believe that all members of the school community have a right to feel safe, and be safe. Being safe and supported at school is essential for student wellbeing and effective learning.
To support our stance on bullying and behaviour guidance, we recently hosted a Bullying Awareness Workshop for our parents, facilitated by Year 3/4 classroom teacher, Mim Stephens. Previous to teaching, Mim delivered Social and Emotional Wellbeing Programs in schools across the South-West and Perth Metro area. She brings to Kerry Street a wealth of knowledge regarding social emotional development, Non-Violent Communication and conflict resolution.
Whilst focusing on our whole school practices of Non-Violent Communication and Restorative Justice, Mim spoke about how we work with children to tackle conflict and grievances in a way that encourages them to express feelings and needs, and foster the restoration of friendships. Conflict and personality differences are a part of life, when we allow opportunities for children to work through these moments, and encourage healthy communication, we are giving them the opportunity to develop skills for life beyond primary school.
Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more personas. Bullying is planned, repeated and persistent. Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals are not defined as bullying.
In order to discuss bullying we first need to understand how development of children’s brains impact decision making. Children are still developing their pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for executive functioning and self-regulation. They make decisions from their amygdala, which is responsible for their emotions. Basically, they make choices from their emotional brain. If you work with children or have children in your lives, you are going to have to deal with situations fuelled by emotion and often bad choices.
How we respond as adults, influences how they feel about the part they have played and essentially, themselves as a person. One of Mim’s favourite lines as a teacher is “You made a mistake, that’s okay, let’s make it right.” This allows children to own the mistake and consider how to go about sorting it out. Of course, there are moments when this response is not appropriate and we need to be a bit firmer.
Using restorative questions such as “What happened?”, “How do you feel about what happened?”, “How do you think the other person feels?”, “What could you do when you feel like that?”, “How can we repair the relationship?” allow children to work through conflict. The more effort we put into a calm and warm response, the more we allow reflection and learning and peaceful resolutions to conflict.
But what about bullying? How do we bully-proof our kids? In the workshop Mim discussed strategies teachers teach children to develop social confidence and protect them from being bullied. These include walking away, talking to the person, finding help and creating a bully-shield. A bully-shield is all about finding your confidence! Talking to your kids about being strong and finding the power to stand up for themselves is so important. Kids with this, are kids who are bully-proof! Why? Because the bully is looking for power too. They also need confidence, and often find the power they need in picking on others and enjoying their reactions.
It is never easy to hear your kids download about tough experiences with others. It can be hard to know how to respond. Here are some great questions to ask that foster independence in dealing with social issues:
- What happened?
- What did you do when they did that?
- What could you do next time?
- How can you ask them to stop?
- What do you need to do?
- Have you thought about…….. ?
- How can you find your power in these situations?
It is often tempting to intervene or tell them what to do, but when we encourage children to develop their social skills, we are supporting them to make better choices and find ways to deal with people who aren’t being nice. Let’s face it, that is something we all need to learn to deal with in life! Whether it is at school, in the community or at work, we all have to speak up for ourselves sometimes. At Kerry Street Community School we encourage kids to develop their confidence and speak their truth in peaceful ways, so we can create peaceful communities.
Read more about our Bullying Prevention Policy and Behaviour Guidance Policy on our School Policies page. If you have any questions concerns regarding bullying behaviour please follow our feedback procedure on our Feedback page.