Bullying in schools has become a nationwide concern, with many anti-bullying practices being implemented in every state. Social and emotional learning (SEL) can provide an effective foundation for reducing bullying in schools. Practicing SEL skills will create a school environment that fosters positive interactions. Here are four characteristics of SEL, that aim to curb bullying in schools:
1. Open, supportive relationships between students and teachers.
Opencommunication between students and teachers presents an opportunity for students to learn positive conflict resolution techniques. These techniques allow students to resolve problems before they escalate into fully fledged bullying.
2. Solid communication between schools and families.
Families need to be involved with their child’s school. When a parent is actively engaged in what happens to their child at school on a daily basis, they can help teach positive behaviour and reinforce messages from the teachers. Working as a team with the child’s school, ensures that the same positive messages are being taught on a variety of levels and in a variety of environments.
3. Emphasis on respect and tolerance.
SEL requires school policies that highlight respect for peers, acceptance and appreciation of everyone’s differences. A school community in which students understand and embrace differences is a place where positive behaviour will thrive.
4. Teaching skills that allow kids to recognise and handle emotions, and engage in caring peer relationships.
In addition to school policies requiring respect and tolerance, students must be taught how to engage in positive social interactions and develop caring peer relationships with one another. Teaching students how to express and handle emotions positively will support responsible decision-making and avoid negative scenarios that could escalate into bullying.
SEL skills arm students with the ability to handle their emotions in a positive way that results in enhanced social problem solving, supportive attitudes toward others, and overall academic success. Social and emotional learning provides students with many benefits that enhance the school community as a whole, creating a caring and nurturing environment in which bullying has no place.
Quirky Kid has also recently published a comprehensive SEL program called The Best of Friends. Find out more about it online. Equip your child with some of our therapeutic resources such as the Quirky Kid ‘Face It’ cards, which are designed to increase emotional awareness. Most importantly, please feel free to contact us to learn more about the benefits of social and emotional learning.
One of the ways in which children develop an ability to manage their emotions is by watching their parents and mimicking their coping strategies (Cole, 1994). Naturally children develop those emotional regulation skills gradually and parents need to consider suitable modeling strategies for the different developmental stages. A three-year-old, for example, may express anger by throwing a tantrum, while a five-year-old might be able to more clearly verbalise the source of the anger. Many children will, however, struggle to cope with the intensity a specific emotion. For some children, the development of emotional regulation does not come automatically and requires more focused input from parents.
All Emotions are Valid
There are no “bad” emotions. Children will experience a range of emotions everyday from mild to extreme ones. Help your child to understand those emotional changes, name them and explain how each emotion feels in their body. You can continue to explore what behaviour comes out of those emotions and if there may be a better way of expressing it. The Quirky Kid ‘Face It’ Cards are designed to increase emotional awareness.
To a child, the disappointment of missing out on a play date may be every bit as intense as what you would feel if, for example, you missed out on your best friend’s wedding. Allowing your child to experience, recognise and name that disappointment lets them know that you care about them and their feelings (Denham, 2012).
The same is true for anger. A child who is angry about a perceived unfairness – not being allowed to watch television, having to leave a birthday party, or being “mistreated” by a sibling, for example, needs your acknowledgement that their anger is legitimate. You aren’t denying them the emotion; you’re simply asking that they express it appropriately.
As the children develop, and with some assistance from their parents, this process is transferred from an external source (e.g., parents calming a crying child) to internal (e.g., children using language to calm themselves).
You can’t change what your child feels. In fact, your child needs to feel safe expressing a full range of emotions. You can, however, help shape the behaviour that occurs as a result of those emotions.
For example, a child who is prone to violence can have his anger validated while still knowing that hitting, kicking, or pinching are not acceptable. It often helps if you’re able to control your own behaviour. Yelling, smacking, or punishing harshly in an effort to get the undesirable behaviour under control will spark further negative emotions in the child, making it more difficult for them to get their behaviour under control.
On the other hand, modeling appropriate behaviour will help your child to learn how to control their own emotional responses. Show your child that sometimes, you need to take a moment to think things through or remove yourself from the situation. Modeling these behaviours will give your child a clear example of how they should act.
Share Your Own Feelings
Because children learn from your responses, they need to understand what has prompted those responses too. It can be very helpful for children to have their parents share how they feel and how they have behaved. This can help with not only validating how children feel but can also provide opportunities to discuss appropriate coping responses and develop a sense of understanding of the child’s situation. Participating in discussions about emotions gives children new tools for regulating their own expression of emotions.
Through modeling positive ways to cope with different emotions, a parent implicitly teaches children how best to express emotions and regulate them (Valiente, 2004).
Helping your child to manage their emotional responses can be a challenging part of parenting, however, it has immeasurable benefit for children as they grow up and learn to navigate the world and the world’s increasingly complex interactions.
Need a little extra help with that process? Contact us to see what we can do.
Cole, P. M., Michel, M. K., & Teti, L. O. D. (1994). The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: A clinical perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(2‐3), 73-102.
Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Early childhood teachers as socializers of young children’s emotional competence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3), 137-143.
Valiente, C., Fabes, R. A., Eisenberg, N., & Spinrad, T. L. (2004).The relations of parental expressivity and support to children’s coping with daily stress. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 97–106.
ADHD which affects approximately 7.2% of children worldwide (Thomas, 2015) presents as either the hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive or combined subtype (Willcutt, 2012). It is often first suspected by classroom teachers who witness the symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. An interesting new study suggests that students with ADHD are more attentive when allowed to fidget.
While behaviour modification efforts, especially in the classroom setting, are often aimed at reducing both hyperactivity and inattention, new research published in Child Neuropsychology suggests that fidgeting may actually help children with ADHD increase focus and exercise better mental control, contributing directly to an increase in performance on cognitive tasks (Hartanto, 2015).
Professor Julie Schweitzer of the Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences department at the MIND Institute at the University of California, spearheaded the study of 26 children with confirmed diagnoses of ADHD, which saw the leg movements of each child recorded by ankle monitors that each child was wearing during a series of computerised activities testing both cognition and attention. The results of the study confirmed that incidents of increased fidgeting directly correlated with a high level of accuracy in test performance. Conversely, the more still the children were during the test the more poorly they performed on the tests of cognition and attention. According to Schweitzer these results suggest that constant movement probably increases mental arousal for children with ADHD, much as stimulant drugs do.
The practical application of the study’s results seems clear to Schweitzer. Adults should encourage children with ADHD to fidget rather than correct them for it, especially during activities that require a high level of focus.
While Schweitzer’s research supports her conclusions, other scholars suggest that simply making accommodations for ADHD students to fidget misses the mark entirely, and that the real solution for children with ADHD when trying to focus in school is one that would support the student population as a whole (Tomporowski, 2011). That is, all people benefit from the opportunity to move around regularly throughout the day, whether diagnosed with ADHD or not, and incorporating more physical activity into the school day might alleviate the need for fidget-friendly classrooms in the first place. Harvard-trained educator and McLean Hospital alumna Nina Fiore emphasises that, “Regular movement has been shown to increase focus and retention in children and adults of all ages…and diagnoses would be lessened if more movement was incorporated into every aspect of school.”
Schweitzer and Fiore are in agreement about one thing, and that is that all children can perform better when they are provided with an outlet for physical activity. It may be that in the future more schools around the world will incorporate a degree of movement into the daily schedule high enough to alleviate the need for classroom-friendly fidget solutions. In the interim, however, Schweitzer offers some practical solutions that are designed to avoid distracting other students in the classroom. Her ideas include:
allowing children to stand and stretch as needed, attaching elastic bands beneath children’s desks so that they can pull and play with them in a way that shouldn’t bother other children, or using yoga balls as chairs, so the children can bounce.
The yoga ball seat approach in particular, has gained popularity among educators, as evidenced by three American elementary schools that have replaced classroom chairs with yoga balls entirely. One such educator, Robbi Giuliano, who teaches 10-year-olds in West Chester, Pennsylvania, describes the switch as one of the best decisions she has ever made, saying, “I have more attentive children. I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.”
Many other opportunities exist for physical activities in the classroom, particularly ones that are neither disruptive nor stigmatising, and they can be used in school settings to help children perform cognitively demanding tasks.
Hartanto, T. A., Krafft, C. E., Iosif, A. M., & Schweitzer, J. B. (2015). A trial-by-trial analysis reveals more intense physical activity is associated with better cognitive control performance in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child Neuropsychology, (ahead-of-print), 1-9.
Thomas, R., Sanders, S., Doust, J., Beller, E., & Glasziou, P. (2015). Prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 135(4), 994-1001.
Tomporowski, P. D., Lambourne, K., & Okumura, M. S. (2011). Physical activity interventions and children’s mental function: an introduction and overview. Preventive Medicine, 52, S3-S9.
Willcutt, E. G., Nigg, J. T., Pennington, B. F., Solanto, M. V., Rohde, L. A., Tannock, R., … Lahey, B. B. (2012). Validity of DSM-IV attention–deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptom dimensions and subtypes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121(4), 991–1010.
ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a disorder presenting in children who have difficulties controlling both their emotions and behaviour. ODD is characterised by challenging behaviour, particularly towards adults and those in authority. Children with this diagnosis may:
Be easily annoyed, become angry quickly or seem irritable
Have frequent temper tantrums
Argue with adults (particularly with those who are most familiar, such as parents)
Refuse to follow rules
Appear to annoy or aggravate others on purpose
Have a low tolerance for frustration
Blame other people for their mistakes
Of course, many of these behaviours common amongst children of all ages, however, children who display these behaviours persistently and to a degree which significantly interferes with how they function both individually and with others, may meet the diagnostic criteria for ODD. To help determine the difference between typical childhood behaviour and that which is problematic enough for a child to be diagnosed with ODD, a psychologist, psychiatrist or paediatrician specialising in emotional and behavioural disorders can carry out a detailed assessment. A specialist will also aide in clarifying symptomatology and ensuring defiance and disobedience in a child is not related to any other significant issue, such as an inability to concentrate or language impairment.
How would my child be assessed for ODD?
A diagnostic assessment will usually look at how closely a child’s presenting pattern of behaviours match with those specified in the ‘diagnostic criteria’ set out by the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
According to the DSM-V, an individual must display a significant pattern of angry or irritable mood, argumentative or defiant behaviour or vindictiveness for at least six months and these behaviours must be pervasive (that is, not only occur within a sibling relationship, for example).
Often a child’s symptoms will be most pronounced in familiar settings around familiar people, and, as such, may not appear significant in a psychologist or paediatrician’s office. For this reason detailed interviews and reports from others involved with the child (eg. teacher) are necessary to consider. Comprehensive assessment tools, such as validated questionnaires, may also be given to parents and teachers to help in making a formal diagnosis.
How common is ODD and what are the causes?
While prevalence rates vary within the literature, the DSM-V reports that on average, around 3.3% of the population experience clinically significant ODD. Problem behaviours are usually first noted before the age of eight and generally no later than adolescence.
There is no single factor that has been identified as causing ODD. Rather, the research suggests that there are a number of factors in the environment, family and child that may place a child at greater risk of developing ODD. Family factors, such as inconsistent, harsh and neglectful parenting as well as child factors, such as being difficult to soothe and being very active, appear to play a role in the development of ODD in children. Overall, it is typically a combination of factors that appears to be important.
Intervention for ODD in Children
Intervention typically involves a team approach and usually includes a psychologist and/or psychiatrist, GP, paediatrician and the family. Intervention typically starts with the GP and/or Paediatrician, to ensure no underlying medical condition/s are impacting on the child and their emotional and behavioural responses. Other aspects of intervention typically include parental support (eg. supporting parents to improve positive parenting skills and communication skills), individual child treatment (eg. developing coping and communication skills), family support (eg. counselling to help families manage stress within the home environment and develop positive family interactions) as well as support for the school (eg. developing behaviour management plans with the teacher, supporting social skills training in the school environment). Intervention also aims to address any co-occurring factors such as any attentional or learning difficulties which may be affecting a child. The efficacy of pharmacological treatment of ODD remains largely unknown at present and a team-based, family focused intervention remains to be the most effective form of treatment for ODD in children.
If you have concerns for your child, there is support available and the best place to start is with the family GP. Your GP will conduct initial assessments and help put you in contact with specialists who can help your family, such as a Psychologist specialising in child behaviour.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) – American Psychiatric Association.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Anne Fraser & John Wray – Australian Family Physician (FRACP)
Some girls are feisty from the get go, from fussy babies to tantruming toddlers. The pre teen or “tween” years though, can be the time which parents find most confounding. At this time parents can struggle with everything from girls (and boys) becoming increasingly defiant to the ‘sexualisation’ of young girls and navigating increasingly complicated relationships with peers.
Between the ages of 8 and 13, children are expected to push the boundaries and this is a part of becoming more independent. You can therefore expect girls at this age to disagree with you, show a bit of ‘attitude’, take risks and want to be more like their friends. Remember, “this too shall pass”. In the meantime, you can support your child by guiding her behaviour with clear rules, warm relationships and an understanding of why teenagers behave the way they do.
For example, their brain are still developing: the ability to control our impulses does not fully mature until 25! Pre teens and teens, therefore, are more likely to make decisions based on emotion and have poor foresight. They are also often sensitive, moody and unpredictable. This poor ability to foresee consequences and make informed decisions can be offset by helping to build a pre teen’s confidence so that she can avoid bad situations, bad relationships and be able to say no.
Just because they are getting older doesn’t mean your girls don’t need rules and boundaries. Instead of imposing these on them, set agreed limits that teach independence, responsibility and problem solving. This will lead them to develop their own standards for what is appropriate and how others should be treated. Praise and encouragement, of course, is still important at this age so let her know what she is doing right. Also, although rude and disrespectful behaviour is common at this age that doesn’t mean it should be acceptable. Collaborate with your child on rules about this type of behaviour and then model what you would like to see youself. In the moment, stay calm and wait for the right time to talk about it. When the situation has cooled and can be talked about, let her know how you feel e.g. “I feel hurt when you speak to me like that.” Fighting between siblings is also common at this time and is a normal part of growing up which teaches us life skills like conflict resolution.
The pre teen years are a time when girls are dealing with peer pressure, possibly bullying or cyberbullying and the need to begin taking risks. An increasingly important role for parents and other adults at this time is to help girls to develop a positive self image. It is difficult for them to ignore the messages from TV, music, movies, the web and clothing stores which sometimes encourage girls to be “sexy” and base their self worth on how they look at a time when they are not physically or emotionally ready. The belief held by young girls that they must dress a certain way to fit in is part of growing up. They feel pressure to conform because dress is part of their social code. As parents we can tune in to media that is targeting our girls and then talk to them about it.
Talk about the qualities they value in their friends and how important these are versus physical attractiveness.
Have conversations about TV shows, dolls and outfits that you don’t like instead of giving a blanket “no” and encourage activities where she excels that take the focus off looks and being cool.
Most importantly, don’t lecture! Ask for your girls’ opinion and try to listen more than you speak. At this time it is also important to not avoid sex education but rather find out what the school is teaching so you can follow up at home. This goes beyond “where babies come from” and is about choices, behaviour and relationships. Ask your daughter’s opinion about these things, she is probably just as conservative as you are! Overall, be a healthy role model and avoid talking about feeling “fat”, “ugly” or going on diets around your daughter.
The pre teen years are a time when we expect girls to get a little feistier but some will show this more than others. Disruptive behaviour is known to pass through generations so if you were a feisty young girl there is a good chance your daughter will be too. You can buffer against this by fostering a warm relationship and setting firm but fair boundaries. Remember to talk to your girls so you can support them through what can be a tough time. You may sometimes get a ‘brick wall’ but meet them where they are by setting aside special time and being available when they come to you.
Helping girls develop a positive self image. Australian Psychological Society (website)
Molen et. al., (2011). Maternal Characteristics Predicting Young Girls’ Disruptive Behaviour. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 40 (2), 179 – 190
Pre-teens behaviour: in a nutshell. Raising Children Network (website)