Tips for being a buddy and not a bully:
• To help others feel important, listen to everyone’s ideas.
• To help others feel included, treat peers and staff kindly.
• To help others feel respected, don’t criticize or put others down.
• To help others feel happy, be positive and include everyone.
• To help others feel safe, check in daily with each other.
Many children tease others as part of sibling or schoolyard rivalries. Children being teased often tease back as part of normal play, and it ends when they grow tired of it or one of them says to stop.
For some, however, teasing someone may turn into picking on them and the intimidation begins to define the relationship. If this happens, the child being intimidated or bullied begins to show signs of distress and needs help. The problem needs addressing.
What can kids do when they encounter others who try to intimidate or bully them? According McChord Field School Age Services, that issue is being tackled head on.
“We were having a lot of issues with certain fourth- and fifth-graders feeling bullied by a classmate,” said Cassie Baker, McChord Field SAS Child and Youth program assistant. “It began at school and was being carried here after school.”
Sometimes it’s just kids trying to fit in with others.
“We’ve seen the bullying aspect,” said Andre Parker, also a program assistant at McChord Field SAS. “It’s a typical time in these kids’ lives when they’re trying to choose friends.”
FINDING A SOLUTION
Baker and Parker sat down and started a dialogue with several of their fourth- and fifth-graders. They also met with other staff members to inform them of what they saw going on and what several children in their care told them.
The discussions quickly led to a collaborative campaign between the older youth and staff at McChord Field SAS called “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully.” Baker and Parker asked several older children to help spread the word around the building by drawing posters and talking to the younger children in their classrooms about the campaign.
Ten-year-old Heidi and 11-year-old Skylar are helping spread the campaign.
“I didn’t like how people were being rude to me,” Heidi said. “I walked away and ignored them. This started at school and was brought here. I told them to please stop, so they ignore me now, and I just ignore them.”
Skylar said although she hasn’t been bullied, some kids have been rude to her.
“Sometimes I would walk away and other times I talked to the teacher,” she said. “They weren’t treating us as normal kids. Afterward, they said they were sorry, and we forgave them. I now know that they weren’t angry at us. They were just angry.”
Schoolwork and other factors can cause stress that leads to anger, Baker said.
“Our fourth- and fifth-graders are going through changes,” she said. “It’s hard for them to deal with their emotions, so we’re working on communication. Part of getting resolution to feeling hurt is sitting down, taking a deep breath and talking about it.”
Parker said part of the solution is to place reserved kids in positions of leadership to teach them how to be more assertive.
“We let them talk to the other kids and they report what they see back to us,” he said.
The older children have eagerly helped the younger groups, Baker said.
“I now tell others to ignore bullies who think they’re in charge,” Heidi said.
Parker said the McChord Field SAS is finding different ways to help avoid bullying. One way is to integrate children into a new group and do team-building exercises where they have to come together and work with someone new on the team.
“We try to find solutions so they can gradually work their way back to other kids,” he said. “That’s where we see positive changes and we let the parent be aware of those changes.”