The following was brought to you in partnership with Wonder the movie. Wonder tells the inspiring story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters a mainstream school for the first time. In theaters November 17.
How can you teach your kids about the negative effects of bullying? One teacher used merely a piece of paper to teach her students about bullying in a lesson that these children would never forget.
The Paper Lesson
A teacher asked each student to pull out a piece of paper. She then had the students crumple the paper, step on it and do whatever they could to ruin the piece of paper without ripping it. Once all the students had their crumpled their pieces of paper, their teacher told them to try to smooth the paper out again.
If you've ever crumpled up a piece of paper, you know how difficult it is to get that paper back to its smooth, pristine condition. There will always be some creases or folds that don't seem to go away, no matter how much you smooth them out.
This is what these students also realized as they tried to smooth out their papers. Their teacher noted that, even if they apologized for ruining the paper, and did all that they could to fix it, some scars couldn't be undone.
The same goes with bullying. This wise teacher taught her students that sometimes the effects of bullying remain with that person for the rest of their lives. Sure, they can say they are sorry to other person and try to make amends, but victims of bullying find it hard to forget the wounds that scarred them, often leaving a permanent mark.
What can you do?
Bullying continues to be a prevalent problem that can harm a child for the rest of their life. Twenty-eight percent of students in middle and high school have been bullied at some point. Twenty-three percent of students are bullied on a frequent basis.
What may be even more horrifying is that 70.6 percent of children report they have seen bullying happen in their school. But some of these bystanders never stop to intervene. Even if they are not the ones bullying another student, they don't take action to put an end to it.
As parents, teachers and mentors to these young students, something must be done to help stop bullying and the harmful effects it has on those involved.
You can start by using the paper object lesson. Teach children that their actions can have a profound impact on those around them, even when they don't realize it.
Here are a few more ideas to put a stop to bullying:
Teach kids to be safe online
Bullying comes in many forms. An increasing trend is that of cyberbullying, which can occur through text messages or online.
When giving your children more responsibility with a phone or internet access, talk with them about how to be kind and safe online. Teach them to think before they post. We should all be asking ourselves if what we're posting could harm or hurt someone, either intentionally or not.
Keep their accounts secure. Make sure you and they know who can see their posts and pictures. Keep your kids accountable and follow up on what they are doing online or on their phones. You may want to have their passwords so you can check up on any unwanted behavior, or ask your children from time to time about what they do online. Even better, let them show you themselves what they are doing.
When you know what's going on you can better catch any hints of bullying before it goes too far.
Start a conversation
Your children need to know that they can come to you and talk whenever they are faced with bullying. They also need to know that bullying in any of its forms is not acceptable.
Create an environment where you and your kids talk about bullying. You can start by showing them the paper lesson or find other outlets that spark conversations about bullying.
For example, go with your kids to see the new movie "Wonder." This movie is based on the best-selling book by R. J. Palacio and tells the inspiring story of Auggie, a boy with facial differences, who attends a mainstream school for the first time. Due to his differences, his new classmates struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, but overtime, his peers get to know the real Auggie he forms strong friendships. (Watch the trailer for "Wonder" here and catch the film in theaters November 17).
This heart-warming movie can open the doors for you and your children to talk about what they would do in this situation. Would they choose kindness, as the movie emphasizes, and talk with a new student who has no friends? Or would they go with the crowd and bully him because he's different than they are?
To put a stop to bullying, start with your example on how you choose kindness every day. Then have an open conversation with your kids about how they can choose to be a little kinder and put an end to bullying.
Bullying starts and stops with us. How will you #choosekind today?