After-school program addresses bullying


Children participating in the role-playing activities receive direction from Kathryn Kvols, right, keynote speaker at the workshop on bullying.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.

Parents received tons of information to help keep their children from being bullied and to prevent their children from bullying other children at “Bully Proofing Your Child,” an interactive presentation that included discussion and role playing, sponsored by the Youth Leadership Transformation After-School Program in partnership with the River Phoenix Center for Peace Building Inc.

The River Phoenix Center seeks to promote peacebuilding and global sustainability by supporting individuals and groups that take action to create positive change through programs, services, trainings and collaborative action.

The workshop, attended by 35 adults and children, was held last Thursday at Landmark Holy Temple of God, where the after-school program meets from 5-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the church at 1220 NE 23rd Ave. The workshop is a part of the program's “Empowering Parents to Become Change Agents in the Public School System.”

Keynote speaker Kathryn Kvols, founder and president of the International Network for Children and Families, presented an interactive workshop with plenty of role playing by the children in the audience. Kvols shared stories of being bullied by older siblings when her parents weren't home. She said her siblings would put her in a closet for hours at a time.

“This went on for years,” Kvols said. “I was very terrified. I became kind of depressed. Didn't feel very wanted, I didn't feel like one of God's children.”

She said each day in the U.S., 3.2 million children are victims of bullying, which can be physical, emotional, and/or verbal mistreatment.

Kvols discussed bullying in a holistic way that looked at ways to stop it from the standpoint of the victim, the bully, and the bystander, which she said are usually the three parties involved in a bullying situation.

She said children who bully other children are looking for attention because their basic needs are not being met at home, including the need to be heard, understood, loved, accepted, and to feel powerful and influential.”

“Kids like attention,” Kvols said. “For some, negative attention is better than no attention at all.”

Vivian Haynes Tinker, founder of the after-school program, was pleased with the turnout and with the students' willingness to participate in role-playing exercises. Haynes Tinker said the after-school program is partnering with the River Phoenix Center in order to develop programs to empower students and parents in the community.

“In order to help our students become more successful,” said Haynes Tinker, “we as a community need to support our churches, our parents and our kids.”

Kvols said signs that a child is being bullied include not wanting to go to school, coming home with torn items, running to the bathroom as soon as he/she gets in the door because bullying occurs in the bathrooms at school, refusing to go to the gym and recess or to participate in after-school programs, because these are also hot spots for bullying to occur.

During role-playing activities, children took turns playing the part of bully, victim, bystander and parent/adult to illustrate effective and non-effective responses to bullying.

She told parents that expressing pity, minimizing a situation, overreacting, recommending retaliation and defending the bully are not effective ways to respond to bullying. She said bullies are looking for attention, so not giving them the attention they crave is the best way to deflate a bully. Kvols suggested being nonchalant, using humor, following the insult with a compliment, ignoring a hurtful comment, and other strategies.

She told parents to establish good communication with their children. When bullying occurs, Kvols said parents need to remain calm, get the facts, and let the child come up with solutions to self-advocate.

Ruthie Dickerson, co-director of the after-school program, said she liked the way Kvols used hands-on activities to draw the children into the discussion.

“The kids could identify and everyone learned,” Dickerson said. “It helped the parents and the children, too.”

Alexandra James said the workshop has provided her with an understanding and ways to keep her son, Jared, from bullying children. James said she now realizes that her way of dealing with Jared was not helping.

“When he did the bullying, I overreacted, and when he was being bullied, I minimized it.” James said.

Jared said he called a classmate a “midget” out of frustration because she was not sharing during a class project. “I'm going to try to not say rude things,” said Jared. “I'm going to try to be nicer.”

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