According to statistics reported by StopBullying.gov, between one in four and one in three students will face bullying at school this year. As a parent, this is a statistic that I do not want my child to be a part of—from either side of the fence. And as a Montessori school administrator, this is a topic that I navigate with families at least once every year. I believe that this statistic can change if we focus on empathy and community.
Our daughter is almost 5 and has attended Montessori school her entire life, and we have a 10-month-old who is following his sister’s footsteps. Prior to having children and prior to becoming head of school, I was the lead teacher in a Children’s House classroom, which gave me ample experience in conflict resolution the Montessori way. Montessori schools are no exception to bullying behavior, of course, but the Montessori approach to dealing with these issues helps children develop respect and empathy from the moment they begin interacting with the world.
[Related: Protecting Your Child From Bullying (member-only video)]
Transferring this practice to our home environment is a continuing process! Their father and I are both Type A personalities and maintaining a home environment that clearly reflects the values our child is learning at school takes mindful practice on our part. Our daughter will often remind us to be more empathetic and clearer in our communication. We celebrate the kind confidence she conducts herself within such moments.
As a parent, these are my key takeaways for how to create and support a culture of community in my home — to help combat bullying before it begins.
Most Montessori schools are extremely diverse — whether culturally, physically, or cognitively. Playgrounds and group classes (music, dance, etc.) are also great avenues for finding a diverse group of people to connect with.
Grace and courtesy
The Montessori curriculum includes building social skills and confidence, which at home translates into having an expectation of clear, respectful communication. Conflict resolution At our daughter’s school, the teacher will take the students who are having a conflict somewhere private and guide them to use problem-solving skills they’ve learned, such as using “I” statements. In my experience, the way a caregiver handles a conflict is key to providing a healthy example of how to deal with such interactions on their own in the future.
[Related: 3 steps to make your child bully-proof]
Frank, honest conversations about behavior happen regularly in our family — whether it is while we are “debriefing” our day over dinner or during bath time. We also have a clearly stated expectation that our child will treat everyone with kindness, use grace and courtesy, and use the skills she has acquired in conflict resolution. Additionally, it is important to us that she not only conduct herself with kindness, but that she stands up for her peers. In these small ways, through developing empathy and community, we hope to contribute towards a change where every child has the opportunity to learn joyfully and safely.