I read an excellent article recently, “Fighting Bullying With Babies” in the NY Times. A group in Canada is trying out a different approach to bullying prevention.
Essentially the program, called “Roots of Empathy” consists of parents bringing in babies to school and allowing students from kindergarten to 7th grade to interact in a structured way designed to enable them to experience empathy.
Here’s how it works: Roots arranges monthly class visits by a mother and her baby (who must be between two and four months old at the beginning of the school year). Each month, for nine months, a trained instructor guides a classroom using a standard curriculum that involves three 40-minute visits – a pre-visit, a baby visit, and a post-visit. The program runs from kindergarten to seventh grade. During the baby visits, the children sit around the baby and mother (sometimes it’s a father) on a green blanket (which represents new life and nature) and they try to understand the baby’s feelings. The instructor helps by labeling them. “It’s a launch pad for them to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others,” explains Gordon. “It carries over to the rest of class.”
One key issue seems to be the disconnect that kids seem to be able to do more frequently today. It’s like what happens when people are surrounded by the shield of their cars. Perfectly nice people seem to feel they can be aggressive and rude. We do things in our cars that we would never do in person because we’d be rude.
Technology seems to have the same effect that cars do. People are insulated from the hurt they may be causing through texting or cyber bullying. By trying to understand what a baby is feeling it reconnects the students with the ability to empathize which then carried over into other areas of their lives.
The “Roots of Empathy” project has been implemented on a large scale throughout Manitoba resulting in a 50% decrease in bullying.
Founder Mary Gordon is quoted at the end of the article:
“When they talk about protecting kids in schools, they talk about gun shields, cameras, lights, but never about the internal environment. But safe is not about the rules – it’s about how the youngsters feel inside.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I urge you to read the full article:
Then let me know what you think…
Contact me at 888-598-7709 or email: mark [at] MarkShepard.com
Or if you prefer that I contact you, please feel free to fill out the handy form below!