Five Ways to Get Young People to Take Us Seriously About Bullying Prevention
1. Teach children that it’s not always possible to avoid conflict.
Instead, sometimes conflict happens, and the goal is to communicate to the best of your ability and manage yourself competently, while still treating the other person with dignity.
2. Redefine how we advise “Talk to an adult” when a child has a problem, and use it as a way to build social competency.
When children identify that they are facing a problem too big for them to solve on their own, part of their self-care and strategy for solving the problem should be critically assessing which adult in their life will be the best advocate for them.
3. Closely tied to #2 is explicitly communicating to young people that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
Asking for help is a skill that people use when they want more control over their lives and the problems they face.
4. Apologize when we make a mistake.
Even the best teachers can tease a student the wrong way or discipline the wrong child only to realize later that they made a mistake. It is profoundly meaningful for an adult to apologize to a young person by saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Yes, the child may respond with, “That’s ok, don’t worry about it.” Don’t be fooled. It can mean the difference between a disengaged student who would never ask a teacher for help again to an engaged learner who believes that there’s at least one adult in the school community that truly has his or her back.
5. Admit that any strategy, from “I messages” and “feedback sandwiches” or anything like it, comes across as probably weird and cheesy.
From about 4th grade on, young people need ways to communicate what they think are realistic and reflect the complexity of the problem.