Continued from “How to Stop Bullying in Elementary School. For Real.”
The groundwork for successful social interaction, which is not an inherent skill, is laid during the elementary school years. It all starts at the lunch table and the playground out back, yet this is when children are left to their own devices. Seriously, y’all? How did this happen? You wouldn’t send kids into a math lesson without a teacher, so why do we throw them into the deep end of proper social skills without a leader? Teachers are superheroes, but they can’t be in 20 places at once, bless their amazing souls. One or two of them keeping watch on an entire grade level won’t facilitate the kind of instruction our kids need.
How We Can Fix the Bullying Problem
Don’t worry, mom warriors. I have a super awesome first step that will basically halt bullying at the elementary level. It will allow kids a chance to develop the art of conversation and learn how to interact with peers from all walks of life . . . before smartphones, social media, and the fresh hell known as middle school are even blips on the radar. It’s super simple, so I’m sure there are loads of bureaucratic reasons it can’t be done at public schools.
I’m not trying to hear that.
Solution: GO GET SOME DANG GROWNUPS for lunch and recess. Put them EVERYWHERE. Call them “social skills ambassadors” or something else fancy.
Let them be volunteers from local businesses and organizations. Encourage parents to join the team, and let them sit at a kid table in the middle of the action. Heck, recruit awesome teens from the middle schools and high schools to come over and help, knocking out some of those coveted volunteer hours in the process!
Let them eat lunch, chase a soccer ball, or sit with the shyer kids under the trees. Let them foster fun conversations and start silly games. Encourage them to ask big questions, and get older kids talking about something besides Fortnite. Okay, maybe that one is pushing it. But still. Stepping in now will change everything. Sit an adult in a chair at every lunch table. Put one within earshot of every. single. student. during recess. Do this every day. I bet you a million dollars and my new pair of marigold Rothy’s that not another nasty word would be said over a PB&J.
My oldest struggled mightily for two years with some tough outward symptoms of his anxiety disorders and medications. It was a very confusing time for me, and I’m his mother. I can only imagine how hard it was for his classmates. During that game changing conversation on the stairs, he shared that he felt lonely, invisible, and worthless at school. His words. He said that the vast majority of his classmates were kind, good kids. Most were never, ever mean. But despite their numbers, he always felt alone. He always felt like he didn’t fit.
Sometimes, that small group of outwardly aggressive kids would say something hurtful. Most of the time, his peers were completely oblivious. Other times, the crowd laughed with the bad guy. Because peer pressure. In elementary school, y’all.
There is absolutely no reason for a child between the ages of five and 11 to experience the pain of bullying and indifference at school. This is the small window of time when adults still hold all the cards, run the entire show, and actually have the power to save these babies. If we strive too hard to avoid overprotecting our children, we might just forget to PROTECT them in the first place. Protection does not always equal weakness.
I’m going to turn this bullying ship around or die trying, y’all. I hope you will help because I can’t do it without all the moms on the battlefield. Nobody makes things happen like a bunch of mama bears. You know that’s right.