As teachers, we are perfectly positioned to help students navigate bullying by teaching social and emotional learning skills. Helping students is easier than you may think.

Students who suffer from the effects bullying lack the social and emotional skills they need to protect their feelings from the negative words and actions of others. They may get easily upset, leading their peers to continue to picking on them. Unfortunately, many people actually enjoy causing others to get upset, and this behavior is quite common.

Albert Ellis, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century said, “I think the future of psychotherapy and psychology is in the school system. We need to teach every child how to rarely seriously disturb himself or herself and how to overcome disturbance when it occurs.”

It’s time to listen to Albert Ellis. You can be among the pioneer teachers. What skills do students need to help them navigate social aggression? Every student deserves the opportunity to learn life-changing social/emotional skillsets.

Resilience: being equipped to handle offenses without getting overly upset and being able to recover quickly when they happen. 

The most important social/emotional skillsetpeople need is the ability to handle verbal attacks. Verbal attacks are by far the most common form of social aggression and most physical fights begin with words. So, if children know how to handle verbal attacks, many physical attacks can be averted. And you’ll be able to teach students this ability remarkably quickly. 

There is an old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” There is no greater saying that children need to learn. This statement is the solution to verbal bullying. If you are the target of frequent unwelcome insults, you might insist that this phrase is a lie. In fact, today, it’s common to teach kids that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can scar me forever.” Kids are being taught today that being insulted can cause them even more pain and damage than to have their arms broken!

First published in 1863, the sticks and stones slogan became popular among African American parents who wanted to teach their children how to endure racism. The slogan expresses the fundamental difference between verbal attacks and physical ones. If you hit me with sticks and stones, you are hurting me. My attitude is irrelevant. Your blows will hurt me, regardless of what I think about them.

If you insult me, on the other hand, my attitude towards your words completely determines whether they will hurt me. This means, if you insult me and I feel hurt, I really hurt myself. And if I get upset, people will continue to insult me.

The sticks and stones saying was never meant to be a statement of fact. Of course, people get hurt by words. The statement was meant to be the antidote to getting hurt by words.

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