Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dealing with Bullying--At school, at home, and wherever it occurs

When we think about the issue of bullying, images of older children and young adults come to mind. Those are the examples that we see in the news: children ganging up on one another, hazing situations that turn into serious incidents of physical and psychological harassment, cyber-bulling, and more.

However, bullying takes place at all ages, even with very young children. It can take the form of anything from relatively minor name-calling to very serious aggressive actions. It can occur in person or hidden in notes and other communications. It can be first-hand, with one person directly bullying another, or indirect through gossip and talking with third parties.

Addressing bullying at an early age is critical. Young children need to learn to recognize bullying and they need to develop strategies for stopping it. They also need to learn how to protect themselves if they are being bullied, and ways to empathize with and support others who are being bullied. Finally, they need to better understand the reasons behind bullying and how to address them. 

That’s what inspired me to write Freda Stops a Bully. I want to give young children a chance to witness a bullying incident and to consider the roles of everyone involved: the victim, the person doing the bullying, and any bystanders who see the bullying taking place. Most importantly, I want to provide some strategies for young children to use to stop people who are bullying them. 
When Freda wears her bright pink shoes to school, a boy named Max taunts her. “Funny Feet! Funny Feet!” yells Max. His friends all laugh.  But Freda doesn’t think it’s funny. She puts her shoes way in the back of her closet and plans to never wear them again. That doesn’t stop Max. “Hi, Funny Feet!” he hollers. “Where are your funny shoes?”

Through advice from adults, including her mom and her teacher, Miss Cathy, and suggestions from her supportive friends, Percy and Emma, Freda tries a number of strategies, including not listening, walking away, and getting help. When none of those works, she finally turns to Max and shouts, “Stop it!” Max and his friends are surprised. “I was just trying to be funny,” said Max. Freda explains that she didn’t think it was funny at all.

Click here to download the "A Closer Look" poster!

The story ends with Max wearing purple gym shoes with stars on them. He walks right up to Freda and says, “Funny Feet! That’s me!”

This wasn’t an easy book to write. First, I had to find an example of bullying that wasn’t too scary for young children, yet at the same time was strong enough so they would recognize that it was hurtful. I made sure that the person doing the teasing was never labeled as a “bully,” a designation that might become permanent and self-fulfilling. I provided some examples of peer support and adult intervention, and some reasons that people bully others. Bullying is complex!

Teachers, librarians, parents, and other caregivers can help young children to better understand bullying and what to do about it by reading my book and others that deal with this topic. After reading the books, they can encourage a discussion of the key ideas that are presented in the story. The strategies that can be used to stop bullying can be posted on a classroom wall, the refrigerator door, or other places where children will see them again and again.

Short plays and puppet shows can be created around bullying. This is a good way to reinforce all the elements involved in the process. Children can be encouraged to draw pictures about bullying and then to discuss them with others. These, too, can be posted for ongoing reference.

The important thing is to find ways to stop bullying whenever and wherever it occurs. Let’s agree to work together to stop bullying -- right now!

Posted by Stuart J. Murphy


Freda Stops a Bully is part of Stuart J. Murphy’s I See I Learn® Series.  

The series includes sixteen children’s books that are organized in four domains: Social, Emotional, Health and safety, and Cognitive Skills. Dealing with Bullying is categorized as an Emotional Skill.

Websites that may be helpful in dealing with bullying include:

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