Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
By Lindsay Collett and A. Noelle, www.startempathy.org
Start Empathy, a collaboration of social entrepreneurs, educators, and parents—is working to make empathy as essential as reading and math in education.
Power Up, developed by Girl Scouts of Colorado, focuses on encouraging the 85% of girls who are bystanders to bullying behavior—especially the gossip, exclusion, and drama common among girls—to stand up and defend targets and make the world a better place. The Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland decided to join in Colorado’s efforts of empowering young women to stand up to bullying. Doing nothing is not an option! By teaching girls how to think—instead of what to think—girls learn to trust their gut to know when they experience, witness, or perpetuate bullying; and to understand that no simple answer works in every situation.
Power Up cultivates empathy through many of the curriculum activities. First and foremost, they focus on building a safe space for the girls. The girls work together to build a group agreement, which sets boundaries and a standard of how everyone should be treated. By getting the girls to build the agreement, they have ownership of the guidelines, which helps to reinforce them. They continue to build a community through icebreaker games.
From there, the girls begin to discover the basics of bullying, including the definition of bullying (getting pleasure from someone else’s pain; it is mean, on purpose, and never okay) and learning to differentiate between normal conflict and bullying behavior. Girls discover the roles involved in bullying situations through an engaging role play game. To keep the girls safe and to ensure they don’t internalize any of the situations, the girls wear name tags to match the characters in the various role play scenarios. The characters play different roles in each scenario so that the girls get to safely experience each of the roles. “Maria” may be a target in the first scenario, a bully in the second, and a defender in the third.
Empathy really comes into play when the girls are put together to discuss bullying scenarios. They sit in a circle and use a stuffed animal (they use a “Sneetch,” from the Dr. Seuss story) as a talking object. The girls have an opportunity to share their personal experiences. This talk helps the girls to see that they are not alone—everyone has been involved in a bullying situation.
After building a safe space and discovering the basics, girls begin to take action to make the world a better place. Girls practice defender drills, rotating between three roles (bully, target, and defender) to rehearse using their own words to defend against bullying behavior in a safe manner that protects the dignity of everyone involved—even the bully. The girls are discouraged from bullying back!
Power Up Your Nieces
1. Create a safe space.
Set aside some weekly qualAuntie time with your nieces, and let them know that they can come to you whenever they are experiencing problems concerning a bully in school. Have your nieces choose the date and time for meeting up with Auntie, and choose a fun activity together.
2. Be a confidAunt.
Talk about the various bullying scenarios that your nieces have experienced or witnessed in the past week, and discuss the three roles (bully, target, and defender). Listen to your nieces and encourage them to confide in you, but know when it’s time to alert their parents—when the bullying goes beyond words and turns into physical aggression. Share your own stories and experiences to let your nieces know that they are not alone, that everyone experiences some form of bullying in their lifetimes.
3. Encourage safe intervention.
Model proper “defender” action. Help your nieces decide the appropriate and safe ways for them to intervene when faced with a bullying situation at school. For more information and bullying prevention strategies, we are linking to the following resources:
Photo: Courtesy of Lindsay Collett