(New Philadelphia, Ohio) – Big Brothers Big Sisters sees bullying as a direct threat to the inherent potential that exists in every child.
The CDC includes three core elements in the definition of bullying which include unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance, and repetition or high likelihood of repetition of bullying behaviors.
Bullying can have many impacts on the victim, according to officials, including depression, anxiety, health complaints, decreased academic achievement, and more. Officials explained that the overall purpose of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to defend potential, and that means placing support systems designed to prevent or reduce the effects of bullying.
The BBBS team indicated several significant ways that a Big, or mentor, can help to prevent childhood bullying:
- If the child is a victim of bullying, having a mentor to talk to is essential. The child’s mentor can encourage them, share ways they have been bullied, and give them advice on how to handle the situation. Mentors can also help the child build their interests and passions to help boost their confidence and help them develop friendships with peers that have common interests.
- Bigs are also essential in their role as a mentor to children that are bullying others. Modeling kindness and positive behavior can have a significant effect on a child that may be treating peers poorly. Kids who bully others are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, get into fights, be abusive towards their future romantic partners, and have criminal convictions. These children also need a mentor to model appropriate behavior and have equity with them to talk about how their bullying is impacting others.
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ School-Based Mentoring programs develop a curriculum every year to build the relationship between Big and Little and develop their social-emotional learning. In the 2020-2021 school year, the following activities are included that are examples of ways Bigs are engaging in conversations to prevent bullying.
During a month’s focus on personal responsibility, Littles complete a “Leaders You Admire” activity. Officials note that the goal is for children to identify people they look up to that model honesty, integrity, confidence, and other positive traits. This can be crucial to the prevention of bullying as both victims and bullies are engaged in forward-thinking conversations regarding the kind of person they want to become.
Another month of the program focuses on positive thinking. Matches complete a Kindness Squares activity. The benefits of this activity, officials explain, focus on happiness. Studies show that kindness activates the joyful area of the brain. Pleasure resulting in kindness activates the need to replicate those feelings either as a receiver or a giver. Even small acts of kindness create feelings of self-worth and belonging. Acts of kindness increase energy and give a wonderful feeling of optimism. Additionally, research has documented that the effects of bullying can be significantly reduced by integrating kindness based programs. The match will cut out the squares and utilize the prompts as ways to show kindness to their peers.
Relationship skills are also vital to positive relationships that prevent bullying. Diversity activities teach young children to respect and celebrate the differences in all people. It also helps them realize that we’re all humans, despite differences in how we look or dress, or what we eat or celebrate. Games and activities offer a fun way for young children to learn about differences and similarities among people and to introduce the concept of diversity. During the month focused on these skills, matches will participate in a Spiderweb Game. In this game, the Mentoring Specialist will start with a skein of yarn and have all matches sit in a circle. The person who begins has to say something about themselves. If another student has the same in common, the skein of yarn is rolled/tossed to that student, who then says something new. This continues until every student is holding some of the yarn, symbolizing that the class may be full of differences, but they all have a common thread to unite them.
Another primary focus in the curriculum is Social Awareness. Matches will complete a Role-Playing activity. An important part of social awareness is understanding and exploring the perspectives of others. One way children can do this is through role-playing. Through role-playing, officials explain that children can explore the thoughts of others, appropriate social interaction, as well as even learning consequences through actions. In this activity, children will take on the role of someone that is socially different than them, like a teacher, parent, or peer, and be given scenarios to act out. Through acting, they can explore various responses to different situations and evaluate why they chose their response. Matches will be provided in multiple scenarios, one of which specifically puts the Little in a scenario with a Bully and a peer that is being picked on.
Building relationships and developing open communications between children and their mentors is a necessary part of bully prevention.
Leaders You Admire: https://bigs4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Leaders-You-Admire.pdf
Kindness Squares: https://bigs4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Kindness-Squares.pdf
Spiderweb Commonalities: https://bigs4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Spiderweb-Commonalities.pdf