Battling Bullying with SEL

At WINGS we teach our kids how to step into the shoes of others and how to make good decisions. While these have long been cornerstones of our program at WINGS, they’re now found to also be important tools to help prevent kids against long-term damage often caused by emotional scarring.

This past fall, as the topic of bullying caught fire nationwide, students at our WINGS Chicora program found themselves being interviewed by one of our local television stations, faced with questions about how they deal with bullies, if they’d ever bullied anyone else, etc. We were pleased to see our kids not only knew how to prevent bullying from happening, but they knew how to brush off peer pressure along the way. What we seem to be learning as conversations of bullying continue is that not all kids are equipped with these same tools.

We were struck by a study reported by Education Week earlier this month, which found that many of the elementary-aged kids surveyed (610 in total between 3rd and 6th grade) had faced a dangerous but often overlooked type of bullying—relational bullying, which can include social exclusion and ostracization, and more. According to researchers, this relational aggression was often “semi-public,” persistent, and based on responses from those kids surveyed, more damaging than any physical bullying the kids had or could potentially face.

While we hate reading these facts, this research only underscores the importance of the social and emotional education our kids receive every day. Not only are WINGS kids taught how to stop this type of relational bullying from happening, but they are more than comfortable brushing off pressure they face from peers. Below are two weekly objectives we teach our kids: 

Step into their SHOES: WINGS kids learn that it is important to not only understand their own emotions, but it is also important to understand what others are feeling or could feel in a certain situation. For this lesson we use the SHOE acronym to help kids read common social cues:

S- Sound of their voice (loud, quiet, fast, slow)
H- How they act (arms, legs, hands, etc.)
O- Outer appearance (how they look on the outside: sweating, blushing, etc.)
E- Expression on their face (mouth, eyes)
S- Surroundings (where they are and who they are with)

Once kids know how to use SHOES to understand how people feel we teach them how to “put themselves in others’ shoes” before they take a certain course of action.

Brush the Pressure off: WINGS teaches kids what peer pressure looks and feels like, while also arming kids with the power to say “no”. Our kids learn that it is unacceptable for someone to pressure them into a negative situation, and they learn how to physically “brush the pressure off”.

When our kids are faced with a situation they are uncomfortable with, they know they can literally brush the pressure off their shoulders with their hands, say “no” to their peer, and walk away. We practice this exercise with our kids throughout the year.  

As we approach our last three-month stretch at WINGS, we feel confident our kids are gaining the skills needed to navigate challenging situations and everyday problems they not only face now but will likely encounter well into their adult lives. To take a page from our book, check out some of the activities we introduce year-round at WINGS and help us put them to action!

"All learning has an emotional base."

- Plato

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