Dr. Hilary Buff
This past summer I worked with the GoNoodle team on the development of the song “Be Nice!” In writing this song, we focused on making our message clear and positive, and this immediately reminded me of when I was in high school and I began lifeguard training. There was a basic rule when it came to water safety, especially important when working with young children. The rule was to remind children what you want them to do, not what you don‘t want them to do. Asking a child to, “please walk” versus saying, “do not run.” The reasoning, adults and especially children will often just listen for instructions and do whatever action you state. Keeping things simple and focusing on positive action will save lives around the water.
I was reminded of this important rule when I began working with a student accused of bullying a peer and was adamant that he did not do anything wrong. His parents and teachers were frustrated that he would not accept responsibility for his actions and had become very defensive about the entire situation. The more we explored, the more it was apparent that he had been bullied in the past, and while all of the adults in his life were telling him what not to do, no one was helping him figure out what to do. He was overwhelmed when in social situations as he did not have the tools to focus on his positive actions.
How can we help our children, students, and young people in our lives to figure out what to do to help combat bullying? Let’s keep things simple and focused on what we can do and perhaps we can save lives.
1. Model Kind Behavior
How we talk to and about others (when they are present and when they are not) teaches our children a great deal. How we speak to strangers, even when we are upset gives our children clear instructions on how they should talk to others. It wasn’t until I observed my own children copying my “angry car-talk” that I realized I needed to find opportunities to be kind to others even while driving.
2. Explore Emotions
Helping your child learn social cues about how they and others are feeling can go a long way in allowing your child to recognize that there are many emotions behind actions. One way I like to practice this with my own children is by asking them to observe others when we are out to eat. I ask them to observe someone in the restaurant, tell us what they may be feeling and what is the story behind their interactions. Exploring emotions also allows children and teens the opportunity to think about how their actions impact others.
3. Pay attention to the way your family members talks to each other
Some families tease each other or joke in such a way that teaches our children to talk to or tease others in the same way. Sibling rivalry is another way that children learn how to treat others; pay attention to siblings degrading each other, embarrassing each other and/or demonstrating bullying behavior. Help your children find ways to act kind to each other or reward helping behavior so that your expectations are clear.
4. Provide opportunities for your child to enjoy helping others
We are all so busy, so without adding more to our busy lives find simple ways to help others. Bringing a cold drink to someone working outside, helping someone older or disabled with groceries, or calling or writing a note to someone who is sick are just a few ways our children can help others and receive our positive feedback for their actions.
Check out some of the GoNoodle videos below. They are perfect tools to help children focus on positivity and kindness and explore their emotions in engaging and meaningful ways:
Dr. Hilary Buff, Psy.D has worked with children, teens, parents and educators for three decades and specializes on the impact of technology use on children and teens. She lives in the Bronx with her two children and works at SAR Academy.