It’s shocking, but somewhere between one in four and one in three students in the U.S. has been the target of a bully. Bullying is most prevalent in middle school and targets students who are seen as being different. Students who are bullied experience increased feelings of sadness and loneliness which can lead to depression and anxiety. Additionally, their academic performance can suffer dramatically.
But the targets of bullies are not the only ones who that suffer. Bystanders of bullying and the bullies themselves have all been shown to experience negative consequences including a higher risk for violence and substance abuse.
Bullying is bad for all involved. That’s why schools need to take a serious look at techniques that can eliminate this social problem entirely. But do they know how to stop bullying? Stopping bullying requires a holistic solution that includes the children, administrators, and their home communities.
That’s what social and emotional learning programs seek to create. An set of tools to help students control their emotions and relate better to others around them, which could help to stop bullying. Social and emotional learning can be used to help children channel their emotions and deal more effectively with bullying.
How to Stop Bullying
According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, social and emotional learning is concerned with helping youth connect their emotions to behaviors and think through the consequences of their actions. When children apply skills gained from social and emotional learning, they are more likely to control their own emotions and show empathy toward others. It’s hard to target other children for ridicule or public shaming when have learned to relate to the negative emotions that bullying elicits. Social and emotional learning helps children understand their emotions and those of others around them in times of pressure.
While social and emotional learning in primary and secondary schools is relatively new, recent studies are producing promising results. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia on students using the MindUP TM curriculum from the Hawn Foundation reported that 82% of children had a more positive outlook and 81% of children “learned to make themselves happy”. Schools which implement social and emotional learning techniques on a school-wide basis are experiencing the most lasting impact.
There are five essential skills that a coordinated social and emotional learning program should seek to help students master in order to stop bullying:
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision making
Students need an opportunity to practice these skills on a regular basis. For best results, parents and the extra-curricular community should be involved to help students understand how to apply social and emotional learning techniques in everyday situations.
Social and emotional learning skills can be developed by having children work with partners or as a group. This should begin early in their academic careers. Nurturing a culture of kindness by encouraging students to support others, using phrases that show appreciation, and rewarding kind behavior all help to improve a child’s EQ. Additionally, children should have opportunities to practice managing conflict and learning how to interact with others in times of disagreement. This can be achieved by role play, during storytime, or as a teachable moment after an actual conflict.
When children learn to manage their emotions, exert self-control during times of high stress or conflict, and empathize with others; they are building the skills necessary to peacefully co-exist with others. You are less likely to be a bully when you see the positives in those around you and genuinely express concern for the emotional state of others. In this way, social and emotional learning can help to stop bullying forever.