Parents, teachers, and kids can agree that they just want all students treated respectfully. (AP file photo)
Bill Radke’s daughter is headed off to the big world of kindergarten soon and he’s worried about bullying.
He called in a national anti-bullying expert and Seattle Girls’ School teacher Rosetta Lee and his Seattle’s Morning News co-host Linda Thomas, a former education reporter and current mom, to help him come up with a parenting strategy.
Lee says kids learn at a young age, about three, the power of including and excluding, so it’s important to teach them about different types of friends, giving people a chance, being respectful, and about self-worth.
For example, your child will eventually be able to categorize who they’re interacting with: classmates, friends, and really close friends. Each of these types of relationships holds a different value for your child and requires different expectations.
Sometimes there are issues not with the type of friends, but the number.
Lee explains that oftentimes a child will count the number of friends they have to determine their self-worth.
“There are kids who have one or two really genuine friends and they are socially doing just fine, but they don’t see their social worth in those valuable relationships,” she says.
Other kids have very controlling, manipulative, not healthy relationships in the school popularity game and feel that they are doing well.
“At the baseline, we’re aiming for respectful behavior,” Lee says.
Thomas’ kids didn’t have an option to exclude people when they were in elementary school because they had a ‘no-out policy.’ The rule is if someone comes up to you and asks to play, you say yes before you say no.
“I think it’s a great policy,” Thomas says.
She believes most kids are too young to understand the consequences of not including someone. They’re usually pleasantly surprised when they include an outsider and it turns out that kid is a really fun playmate.
Lee agrees that at an early age, it’s a great tool to make sure kids are interacting and giving everybody a chance.
But when the rules don’t work and a teacher spots bullying?
“Teachers need to speak up,” says Lee.
Kids notice when a teacher doesn’t help them overcome a tough situation and Lee says it happens because many of the adults grew up learning that bullying was a rite of passage.
“Teachers are fearful of speaking up because there’s nothing scarier than calling home and saying ‘Your son or daughter did or said this,'” she says. “The response can be pretty dramatic.”
Unless a school has a strict no-bullying policy, a reporting teacher can be acting solo, without getting any support from a principal or parents.
Listen to the full Bill Radke Treatment: