Did you know that October is Bully Prevention month and Disability Awareness month? Sadly, children with an exceptionality are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied than their typical peers.
So, what can you do to help ensure that your child is not a victim of bullying or does not become a bully themselves? To put it simply---EMPATHY! Parents who show empathy for their child when upset, without ignoring their child’s feelings or trying to change their child’s emotional state, help them to develop empathy.
How to Spot Empathy in a Child
Let’s look at a couple of examples of how to develop empathy in your child.
Compassion, Empathy and Character Development
The Creating Compassionate Children™ (CCC) campaign is a curriculum for schools that is centered around EGF. “Get caught Being Kind™” is the campaign’s slogan. The curriculum provides teachers and schools with discussion questions to be used along with my book and extension activities and materials to help students develop compassion and empathy for peers who look or act differently. The CCC campaign meets federal guidelines for the requirement for Character Development. To donate a kit to a classroom or to find out about implementing the program in your county, visit http://getcaughtbeingkind.org/
Equipping your child with strong self-advocacy skills can help your child to avoid becoming a victim of bullying. A common home situation that is ideal to teach self-advocacy skills is when your child takes their sibling’s toy. Attend to the “victim” first, offering empathy and empowerment. Ask the victim, “Did you like it when your brother/sister took your toy?” The child will likely say, “No!” emphatically. Help the “victim” use this energy to approach the “aggressor” to say, “I don’t like it when you take my toy, give it back, please!” Next, attend to the “aggressor” saying, “Look at your brother/sister’s face. His/her face shows that he/she feels mad and doesn’t like it when you take his/her toy. You wanted your sibling’s toy but did not have the words to tell him/her. Instead of grabbing, next time say, ’May I have a turn please.’ Try it with me now.” You have now taught your child a new skill to use in a similar situation in addition to reinforcing empathy.
Children are much less likely to become bullies themselves when their caregivers are responsive to their emotional and physical needs, connected to their child, treat others with respect, and utilize positive discipline.