While parents and educators frequently talk about the problem of bullying in schools and recognize that it is a growing, often dangerous problem, just how we go about addressing it is often something of a vague concept. In her new book, The 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book for Kids and Tweens, school counselor Signe Whitson not only breaks down the problem of bullying into digestible pieces, but offers clear, concise steps that can be taken to help kids understand and stop bullying.
Whitson begins by defining bullying as cruel behavior, done on purpose and repeated over time, that involves the imbalance of power. To help kids solidify the point, she suggests remembering the three “P’s” of bullying: purpose, pattern, and power. Whitson also offers several exercises, such as differentiating bullying from being rude or mean, and identifying typical bullying behaviors such as tripping, posting cruel comments online, and teasing, as well as checklists, quizzes, and even a fun exercise where kids identify their bully-busting spirit animal.
Key 2, Whitson tells us is for kids to connect with someone they trust. An important distinction is made here between tattling and telling, and to help kids understand the difference, Whitson offers six simple rules, such as identifying if someone is hurt and needs helps, and asking if this is the first time something has happened or if it is a pattern. Part of this step is also to complete a safety plan, and here Whitson offers instructions as well as several fun exercises to help kids identify adults they can trust and feel heard by.
Just how to stop bullying, as well as the very words that stop the behavior comprise Key 3. Here Whitson separates words into “cotton” and “sandpaper” words to help kids understand the difference between speaking in a kind or mean way. One key point Whitson offers: “Remember kids who bully are not looking for a fair fight! Their goal is to have power over someone else. They are looking for kids who either overreact with mean behavior or underreact with meekness.” Yet when kids speak with assertiveness — Whitson calls this “showing that you mean it” — bullying can be interrupted.
Whitson then moves to Key 4, the topic of cyberbullying, and offers kids some helpful advice: “Anytime you turn a negative into a positive in your life, you show that you are responsible and respectful. It’s normal for adults who care about you to worry about the dangers of cyberbullying.” She then provides ten “Rules of Netiquette” — such as choosing your words carefully and understanding that what you post is permanent — that help clarify just how to use the internet without cyberbullying. One helpful exercise Whitson offers asks kids to choose between screens on their phones and indicate which messages and pictures would be appropriate to send.
The next two keys, leveling up your skills to handle bullying and being known for being nice, explore the physiological effects of bullying, as well as several examples of how to be nice, even when faced with bullying. For example, Whitson uses several helpful images to illustrate the limbic system and then asks kids to identify which part of the brain — the limbic system or the pre-frontal cortex — is being used in a variety of situations. On being kind, Whitson poses several examples of bullying and asks kids to write down what they could do before, during, and after to help the victim. She also offers a weekly log where kids can keep track of the kind acts they perform, why they perform them, and what the outcome is.
Encouraging kids to employ multiple perspectives is the subject of Key 7, reach out to kids who bully, and here numerous exercises help kids identify the differences between bragging and being proud, and being popular or well liked. In one interesting exercise, Whitson has kids taste something sweet, place an ice cube on their tongue for as long as they can, and then again try something sweet to provide a powerful demonstration of the way we can become numb to the world around us and fail to have empathy for others.
In the last section of the book, Whitson asks kids to take the 30-day kindness challenge, which is Key 8, to keep talking about bullying. She also provides a helpful illustration of kind acts, such as cleaning your room without being asked and telling a parent that you appreciate them, and then asks kids to choose one act and perform it daily for thirty days, recording it on their kindness log.
Like other books in the 8 Key series, edited by Babette Rothschild, Whitson’s book tackles a common mental health problem and provides readers with cutting edge information in an easily accessible style. Packed with helpful worksheets, quizzes, and skills, written in a way that is not just informative but inviting to children, The 8 Keys to End Bullying is a book that should be made available to every child, parent, and educator in the school system today.
The 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book for Kids and Tweens
W.W. Norton & Company (2016)
Paperback, 235 Pages