Bullying is a serious problem that affects children and adults around the world. While punishment and discipline may seem like the natural response to bullying, they often fail to address the underlying issues and may even worsen the situation. Instead of focusing on punishment, one effective way to prevent bullying is through kindness.
Susan Swearer, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-director of the Bullying Research Network, and Steffie Rapp, a Juvenile Justice Specialist at the Office of Justice Programs, argue that current anti-bullying efforts often focus on punishment rather than prevention, and that zero tolerance policies are ineffective. Bullying is a learned behavior that can be caused by a variety of factors, and it’s important for parents and teachers to identify and address the signs of bullying early on in a child’s development.
To teach kindness, it’s important to define what it means. Swearer and Rapp define kindness as “thinking about the needs and concerns of others” and “compassionate thinking and generous actions.” This means going out of your way to make a positive impact on others, rather than just being pleasant and polite.
To encourage kindness in children, it’s important to model kind behavior yourself and to actively teach and reinforce kindness. This can be done through activities like acts of kindness scavenger hunts, volunteering and community service, and discussion and role-playing. It’s also important to recognize and praise kind behavior in children, and to give them opportunities to practice kindness.
In addition to teaching kindness, it’s important to address the underlying causes of bullying. Children who bully often have difficulty with emotional regulation and may have underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. It’s important to work with children who bully to help them develop the skills they need to regulate their emotions and empathize with others.
Kindness is a powerful tool that can help prevent bullying and create a more positive and inclusive environment for everyone. By actively teaching and reinforcing kindness in children, we can help reduce incidents of bullying and create a more compassionate and understanding society.