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How to Convey What Bullying Is to Young Kids

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Boys Town Contributor
Mother of six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son

How to Convey What Bullying Is to Young Kids

Teachable moments can come from a wide variety of sources, including other parents. From time to time parents write blogs for us that we think you will find interesting, useful, or entertaining. Please enjoy this post from a fellow parent.

As co-leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout brownie troop I wanted to focus on bullying for our October meeting. As a parent, the idea of my child being bullied terrifies me. I also want to make sure my kids know that bullying is wrong, with girls especially, and it seems to start at such a young age. But how do you get through to seven and eight-year-olds in a manner that they understand?

Here is some of what we did and what we learned.

We opened our meeting with a game of good old-fashioned telephone. The first girl was given a tongue twister of a line and they whispered it from girl to girl, it worked like a charm and the last girl spoke a much different phrase then the first girl. We asked how this was like rumors. The girls knew right away – a rumor can start as one thing and can quickly morph into something different and is often untrue.
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Then we moved into an overview of bullying. What it is and examples of both physical and emotional bullying. Why it’s wrong and what you should do if you are being bullied or if you witness someone being bullied.

For our next activity, we played a game called “Where do you stand?” We put three pieces of paper on the floor with the words yes, no and maybe on them. We gave the girls a series of scenarios and asked them to stand on their answer, displaying whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure if it qualified as bullying. Examples included things like:

-It’s okay to start a friendship club with friends.
-It’s okay to tell one friend that she can’t join.
-It’s ok to draw a picture of a classmate.
-It’s ok to draw a picture of an animal or something ugly and write a classmate’s name above it.
-Calling a classmate by a nickname.
-Calling a classmate by a nickname they don’t like or approve of.
-Inviting half the class to your birthday party.

The girls caught onto our pattern pretty quickly and it created some good conversation. For example, on the last question about inviting half the class to your party – a lot of the girls stood on yes for this is bullying. We discussed that it’s actually ok not to invite everyone, but it’s not ok to brag about it to those who aren’t invited.

For our next activity we wanted to do something interactive and exciting. We found a great science experiment that created foam. We used the rapid rising foam as an example of how quickly rumors spread and grow out of control. The girls loved being hands-on and when asked, they knew what it was meant to represent. We closed with everyone signing a Girl Scouts anti-bullying pledge.
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One of the most interesting things I took away from this meeting is that as we were discussing examples of bullying we noticed the girls continued to say “boys” or “he”. When asked if boys are bullies all the girls raised their hands, but they didn’t raise their hands for girls being bullies. I think at this age it’s very easy for kids to think of bullying as only a physical act, and apparently at our school the boys are the ones doing the pushing. This meeting gave us the opportunity to really help the girls understand bullying from a broader perspective, to explain that both boys and girls can be bullies and how to deal with it if the issue arises.

For more information on this topic, check out our Guide to Dealing with Bullying.