28. June 2012 15:09
Tuesday’s Herald-Sun featured a column by DPS superintendent Dr. Eric J. Becoats that outlined the impact of bullying in the public schools and what Durham administrators are doing to prevent this problem, one that causes nearly 160,000 children nationwide to miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
The problem exists long before children enter kindergarten. Child care professionals quite commonly see early forms of aggressive and isolating behavior in young children. What does it look like? Children make mean faces, hit, grab, falsely accuse other children, or refuse to play with specific children. Recognizing these signs is imperative to maintaining a safe, bully-free environment and is the caregivers’ responsibility. Child care professionals employ a variety of strategies that help young children develop social skills that prevent aggressive or isolating behaviors.
- Impulse control and self-calming: Teach children to use simple relaxation and self-calming techniques. Children need an age appropriate way of redirecting focus, such as “blowing up a balloon” to teach deep breathing or “pretend your hands are faucets and open and release the water” to teach how to relax one’s muscles.
- Labeling emotions in oneself and others: When young children can correctly identify what they’re feeling and accurately interpret the emotions of others, they become better able to control their impulses and regulate their emotions in a healthy way. Early educators teach units on feelings: reading books, sharing feeling faces, role play, use puppets and have children draw and talk about their emotions. Throughout the day, children can “check in” by selecting a feeling face that best represents their mood. Identifying and validating children’s emotions is the first step in learning to productively express one's feelings.
- Encourage and model problem solving skills: For example, child care providers teach children the phrase/action, “You take a turn, I take a turn.” For this to be effective, the child care setting must be an environment that is rich in cooperative use toys like balls, swings, puppets, and dress-up clothes. Essentially, this is a form of early problem solving.
"For young children social skills are much more than saying "please" and "thank you,” said Aviva Starr, Program Manager of the Early Childhood Outreach Project (EChO). “Young children can learn self-care skills, how to appropriately express difficult emotions and ways to problem solve with peers. For instance, by teaching a 2 year old who grabs from others to say, "May I please have it when you are done?" a childcare provider teaches --in one phrase--politeness, patience, and respect for others. When children are taught these skills they have increased self-control, are less aggressive and are more persistent when faced with difficult tasks. We want to teach children preventative skills early instead of waiting to react to negative behaviors later." (EChO, a program of the Exchange Clubs’ Family Center, provides consultation, support and referral services to Durham child care providers and families when a child’s behavior presents a challenge in their childcare setting.)
Children with a strong foundation in emotional literacy engage in less destructive behavior, are healthier, more focused, and have greater academic achievement.
» Read the HS column, Superintendent’s Corner: Bull City no place for bullies.
» For more information on EChO, contact Aviva Starr at (919) 403-8249 x 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
» More information on emotional literacy can be found on the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) Web site.