Bottom Up Approach to Anti-Bullying


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Most anti-bullying programs that are put in place are from the “top down” where it seems to be difficult and slow to see results and change. “Top down” means we try to put rules and policies of zero tolerance for bullying in the high schools and middle schools. These policies are often hard to enforce, not consistently supported by all school staff nor comfortably accessed by students. (non reporting of incidents)

The "teacher enforcers" take on the role of policing and punishing – where we make our youth “feel worse” in order to “do better”. I advocate instead, that we approach the anti-bullying crisis from the “bottom up”. This means we begin to teach and guide our young children, beginning with preschool, kindergarten and 1st grade, a Resolution/Empathy Process that teachers, counselors and parents can use with any incident from aggression, anger, teasing, mean and hurtful words, and which actively includes every child involved in the incident. Research shows that 85%-90% of our social, emotional, basic attitudes and life style are developed between 0-5 years of age.

Therefore it makes sense to take the “bottom up” approach and begin an anti-bullying program by teaching and guiding pro-social skills with our young students much the same way we teach and guide reading readiness. The focus would be to start early, continue to move the program from “bottom up” and practice, practice, practice doing the right thing. Research shows that 90% more learning takes place if we see it, say it, hear it, do it.

We learn by knowing and doing the steps of the Resolution/Empathy Process, and WHY each of these steps is important. By understanding the “WHY” we are more willing to accept and follow all steps in the Resolution/Empathy Process.

To make the changes we are working for in the child’s behavior, we need to be able to consistently and repeatedly apply the same steps, example and conversation to each incident. What we need is a PROCESS that can be followed for every and any incident—consistently and repeatedly. This Resolution/Empathy Process, when all steps are followed, can be successfully implemented with physical, social and emotional incidents.

We're working on a “mind shift” from policing the children and punishing to seeing all sides of the whole picture, identifying the problem and practice doing it the right way. This is followed up with taking the responsibility to express the critical steps of empathy and compassion with each child involved in the incident, as they have resolved the problem and “hurt”.

By consistently continuing the R/E Process through the grades and augmenting it with supplemental programs such as 2nd Step, series of social skills books, role-playing and counseling, we will be on positive path to successful and long lasting change.

Learning Outcomes

The Resolution/Empathy Process is a preventative, intervention, anti-bullying process. By guiding and teaching children at this young and impressionable age how to better handle their social and emotional play problems, we are working on changing children’s emotional and behavioral responses which enable them to generate more positive relationships as they mature. In other words, an anti-bullying process beginning from the bottom up.

In the Resolution /Empathy process, by taking the time to set the scene, identify the problem, and practice the right way, the children are able to calm down. They go from an emotional state to a more rational state, are ready for empathy and understanding, and a calm return to play.

For decades, we've worried about our children’s self-esteem, how they felt about themselves, I now realize that helping young children to develop empathy and self-control may be the better traits to encourage in our children. It is not only about how the child feels about his behavior, but whether it is right or wrong. We should be teaching children about others, how others are affected by one’s behavior, emphasize empathy and practice self-control and patience, stressing being able to resist temptation and control their impulses. A recent study showed that children’s exhibiting patience and self-control by age four was a stronger indicator of success in the upper grades than IQ at age four.

About the Workshop Leader

Photo: Phyllis DeGraff Kunimura

Author, Phyllis DeGraff Kunimura , former First Lady of Kauai, Hawaii, educator, and community leader, has been a tireless worker on behalf of the keiki (children) of Kauai. She came to Kauai in 1961 as a kindergarten exchange teacher from Ithaca, New York. Her marriage to Tony Kunimura, a state legislator who went on to become Mayor of Kauai, took her on an additional 30 year career, that of wife of a public servant and an active leadership role in the affairs of the island.

She authored and illustrated the booklet, “Tourists Make Jobs”. This kindergarten—1st grade learning unit received nationwide publicity and has subsequently been adopted by other Pacific Island nations.

As a kindergarten teacher for over 30 years, Mrs. Kunimura experienced many different trends and methods of teaching from New York to Hawaii. The ground-breaking information on brain research and development challenged her to utilize these findings and more importantly, to reach children at an even earlier age. After retiring from the D.O.E. she was ready to formulate her innovative curriculum as she founded her own preschool, Kauai Independent Daycare Services, Inc. (K.I.D.S.) which today is recognized as one of the top daycare centers in Hawaii.

As an educator she has been active in extra-school arenas as a resource speaker, seminar leader and as a citizen ambassador to the US/China Joint Conference on Early Childhood Education held in Beijing.

Throughout her distinguished career as an educator, her innovative efforts have earned for her an outstanding local reputation as a pioneer in early childhood education. Her biography appears in Delta Kapaa Gamma International, Beta Beta State 1993 edition of Pioneer Women in Hawaii.

Her latest achievement was to author a book, Beyond the Sandbox, Preschool Matters—closing the gap between research and practice.

In this book Kunimura shares her philosophy, innovative programs, curriculum and the history of being a preschool director on the beach from 1989 to the present.