Recent research tells us that kids who bully all share one thing in common: They lack empathy. If you're a teacher or parent who wants to help kids resist bulling, here are four things you can do right now:
1. Name your feelings and help kids name their own. Kids who lack empathy are often completely out of touch with how other people feel, and how they themselves feel too. They might be able to identify basic emotions like happy and angry, but, beyond that, they may be completely clueless. They need your help to tune in. Naming and identifying feelings is one of the first steps in developing empathy.
2. Model respect and compassion even when you're angry. Kids who bully tend to be hot-headed and easily frustrated. Help them learn to manage anger and frustration through your own example. One respectful, compassionate way to express angry feelings is to say something like this: "I know you're feeling frustrated right no, but what you said made me mad. I'm taking a few minutes to cool off. Then we can talk about it.
3. Call kids on mean words and actions of any kind. Whether directed at a sibling or peer, don't ignore cruel behavior. Say something like, "That was really unkind," or "I felt so upset seeing you treat your brother in such a mean way." Then have them think of ways to make amends to the person they've hurt.
4. Seek out books, videos, and TV shows with characters who exhibit compassion and respect. Look for real life models too. Name the positive qualities you see and discuss them together. Kids need exposure to more and more examples of people who are decent, kind, compassionate, and respectful. Since they learn primarily through imitation, we need to help them have good examples to imitate and emulate.
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