We can combat bullying by coming down hard on the bullies, but we also need to prevent kids from becoming bullies in the first place. In a recent New York Times Opinionator column, David Bornstein writes about Roots of Empathy, a Canadian program that helps children grow their empathy.
Bornstein describes the program:
Roots arranges monthly class visits by a mother and her baby (who must be between two and four months old at the beginning of the school year). Each month, for nine months, a trained instructor guides a classroom using a standard curriculum that involves three 40-minute visits – a pre-visit, a baby visit, and a post-visit. The program runs from kindergarten to seventh grade. During the baby visits, the children sit around the baby and mother (sometimes it’s a father) on a green blanket (which represents new life and nature) and they try to understand the baby’s feelings. The instructor helps by labeling them. “It’s a launch pad for them to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others,” explains Gordon. “It carries over to the rest of class.”
Bornstein visited several classes and found that kids change around babies: “tough kids smile, disruptive kids focus, shy kids open up. In a seventh grade class, I found 12-year-olds unabashedly singing nursery rhymes.”
* Check out CHARACTER COUNTS! lesson plans designed to help students become caring people.