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In recent years, the topic of bullying has hit headlines worldwide. Bullying comes in many different forms and can be found in schools, on playgrounds, on the internet and in the workplace. To tackle this growing issue our society focuses on what to do when your child is being bullied, yet we fail to recognize how we can stop raising victims or raising bullies themselves. Your child will either be: a bully, someone who is bullied or, most preferably, someone who stands against bullying.
Bullying cannot be prevented, but we can give our children tools to become individuals who are self-thinking, empathetic, open minded and caring towards others.
Here are five strategies to raise moral and caring children:
Make caring for others a priority:
Children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others. Whether it’s passing a ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for a friend who is being bullied. Your child needs to hear, from you, that caring for others is a top priority. We as parents, caregivers and educators, must hold children to a high ethical expectation, such as honoring his/her commitments. At times, this may mean a little bit of personal sacrifice. Most parents will say to their children, “The most important thing is that you’re happy.” Instead, let’s start saying and meaning, “The most important thing is that you’re kind to yourself and others.”
Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude:
All too often we, as adults, say to ourselves, “I’m just one person, what difference can I make?” There is a common notion that if we can’t do something big, we don’t do anything at all. We need to change this train of thought for ourselves and for our children. Every little contribution makes a big difference. Teaching your child to contribute as an individual, allows them to form care and gratitude for the people, the world and the environment around them. It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children, like the rest of us, need practice. A chore, such as setting or clearing the table, is a simple way to contribute to the family dinner. Rather than donating your child’s toys without his/her knowledge to avoid a fuss, involve him/her in giving. This is a great learning opportunity to give to the less fortunate. The reward for being kind should be an intrinsic satisfaction of being a good person and should not be a monetary or materialistic reward. Caring and gratitude go hand in hand. Similarly, learning gratitude involves regularly practicing it. “Waste not, want not” is a phrase we all know, but fail to remember. Teaching children to appreciate what they have and understanding how they got it, is very important.
Expand your child’s circle of concern:
Generally, children care about their small circle, consisting of their family and friends. It is our job to help them learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new student in their class, someone who doesn’t speak their language or someone who is less fortunate. Expanding a child’s circle is learnt by exposing them to people who live in very different cultures around the world and in their own community. Diversify them. For example, if there is a new student in your child’s class who is hearing impaired, exposing your child to sign language means they can communicate with this person and make them feel welcome.
Be a strong moral role model and mentor:
Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others. You can model caring for others by contributing to the community regularly with your child. Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced. This practices self-thinking.
Guide children in managing destructive feelings:
Often, the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy or other negative feelings. We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways. A simple way to teach your child to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth and count to five. We can only make wise decisions that are helpful when calm. Practice this strategy when your child is calm. Then, when you see your child getting upset, remind him/her about the steps and do them together. There should be a rational conversation after. The questions, “why?” and “what if?” are great in getting the conversation going in the right direction. Ultimately, our goal is that our children will be able to have this internal dialogue when we aren’t there to guide them. After a while, your child will start to do it on his/her own.
Your role as a parent is the best chance your child or someone else’s child has to survive bullying. You are your child’s role model, mentor and educator. It starts at home. They are watching and listening, so make them feel safe and loved. Listen to your words and stop yourself from saying, “If you don’t put on your jacket, mummy is leaving without you.” Or “Daddy will love you forever, if you eat all of your lunch.” Raise your children to be confident, to know that they are loved and to show love and care for others. Raise them with the ability to make the right decision and be self-thinking.
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