Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Being Nice: Never Too Early to Start

By: Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD

How many times through our childhoods did we hear our parents or other parents telling us to “be nice”? That phrase appears in parents’ vocabulary as pre-toddlers begin to discover mobility and creep over to snatch a binky from another child’s mouth or pull a toy from another child’s hands. The realization of the ability to have power over someone or something immerges very early in life. Though developmentally appropriate, this early realization of power can turn into something much fiercer called bullying if the child does not receive modeling of appropriate behaviors. Bullying has developed at epidemic proportions across the lifespan, permanently affecting the lives of victims.
My nine-year old daughter, Skylar, made an anti-bullying brochure in one of her classes to teach young children how to react if they are being bullied. Her simple language and to the point explanation reinforced to me that bullying, in any form, is a black and white issue. It simply should not be tolerated under any circumstances! When I asked her to describe to me how she would talk to young children about what to do if other children are not being nice to them, she did not hesitate in her response:

I would say, “Have you ever been pushed on purpose or been called a hurtful name? Have you ever been made fun of because of who you are or the way you act or look? Then you have been bullied! A bully tries to make other children feel bad about themselves, but really the bully must be the one who feels bad if they want to hurt someone else. If you are being bullied, it is important to tell your teachers and your parents. They can make the bully stop hurting you. Remember we are all special and being nice to one other is the right way to treat everyone."

A great activity in which to engage your child is to develop an art activity or community engagement project that emphasizes being nice to others. Children celebrating differences, and families and communities creating inclusive environments should become the norm. For younger children it might be a poster to hang in their room that reminds them to play nice when on a play date. For older children, an activity might be to design a t-shirt that they can have printed and wear to declare their positive views on inclusion and anti-bullying. Starting early to expose and celebrate the differences that exist among us will go a long way to foster tolerance and inclusion in years to come.

It is never too early to learn that being nice to others is a powerful feeling! For more resources on anti-bullying, please visit www.antibullying.net and http://nobullying.com/count-me-in/.

About the Author: Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD, has been a pediatric physical therapist, academician and researcher for 25 years. Her research focuses on fitness, physical activity, and health promotion for persons with cerebral palsy (CP) across the lifecourse. 

15 comments :

  1. Your daughter was right on! I think too, with teaching kids how to respond to bullies, we need to remember to teach them how not to be a bully themselves. It's so easy for a slip of the tongue or something said in anger to be the words that the recipient remembers forever.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts. It is so important to teach our children to think before they speak because words DO hurt.

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  2. Such an important thing to start young :-) It gets harder when kids reach middle school age if they aren't told in the primary grades that this kind of behavior is wrong.

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    1. Yes - kids tend to reach that age where they think they know it all and it is much harder to teach lessons that they should've learned years before.

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  3. I agree. It's important for your children to recognize bullying and stand up for themselves and for other kids.

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    1. We have to be the leaders and teach them how to do this :) thanks for stopping by

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  4. This has become such a big problem in the schools today. We have had a lot of talks with our son about how to act if he, or anyone he sees gets bullied. The more kids learn to band together the less impact the bully will have.

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    1. That is a good talk, especially if he sees someone else being bullied. A lot of kids worry so much about getting in trouble but the violence has to stop! I'd rather my child stop a bully and get in trouble (this standing up for what he/she believes in) than letting a bully keep - well - being a bully!

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  5. Wonderful idea! Your daughter is one smart little lady! I get a little nervous to eventually send my son off to school because I've seen first hand at the bullying that can go on. I really like your idea. A lot of times art projects can get kids to open up who might not have under other circumstances.

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    1. Art is a great emotional expresser! (I think I made up that word). We can learn a lot from what children create.

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  6. We always make it a point to prepare our kids on how to treat others before they enter into a social situations. It's a good idea to remind them to be nice to others, but beyond that, to also encourage them to think about specific ways they can be nice. Role play or giving them different scenarios also helps.

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    1. I like that idea! Role playing is a great way to learn. Stuffed animals and baby dolls can be great props for teaching to be nice.

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  7. I like this, will be sharing it!

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  8. I love love love this post. I can't stand bullies! I taught my children to be nice and one of them was bullied all through school.

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