Bullying, physical and psychological abuse, cyber bullying and intimidation; all of these issues are facing children today online, in the classroom, and on the playground. It is difficult to anticipate how a child will react when faced with these problems. The child with a sense of confidence and self-assurance could reasonably be expected to resist being bullied, but how many children truly have the conviction and composure to withstand bullying?
With the attention being paid to bullying today, many musical artists have performed songs addressing the issue. “Mean” by Taylor Swift and “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera advise kids not to let bullying and cruel words hurt them or make them lose confidence. Hilary Duff’s “Fly” has an inspirational message, asking the listener to rise above the hurt and insults. It can be necessary for teachers and parents to employ tools that teach the message that bullying is not okay. That is the aim of anti bullying songs, which use positive reinforcement to encourage children to rely on themselves and defy the negative effects of bullying.
Organizing a sing-along and building self-esteem in a group setting helps kids feel a sense of unity with their peers. An anti bullying school assembly, or just an individual classroom effort, is a great place to build confidence and engender respect within the student population. Often, just using a song that is familiar to children, but with altered lyrics that apply to bullying, can be helpful in reaching out. Adapting the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands,” Francie Shafer utilized the familiar tune but substituted the lyrics, “If you need help with a bully, clap your hands,” followed by “If you’re teased and you’re sad, stomp your feet,” and “If you’re happy with yourself, give a smile.” Accompanying movements make the song a fun experience, but a discussion about bullying before and after the song transitions to the message. Children are encouraged to speak up to a teacher or parent and not keep unhappiness bottled up inside. (Teaching Tolerance)
Songs and group participation help defuse tense situations, while letting children know bullying is an unacceptable behavior. Kids can add their own lyrics too, which makes them feel part of the program. This type of therapeutic approach is popular with children, as well as their parents and teachers. It can be used in schools, camping situations, at scouting events, and even at graduation exercises.
Songs for Teaching is a website that offers materials, including original songs and lesson plans to help educate children by showing them how to become empowered and self-reliant. There are a number of different albums and musical plays profiled with a variety of artists. Several object lessons are presented, teaching different ways of coping with bullying and building self-esteem.
An effective method for teaching children respect and tolerance is to ask them to imagine themselves in the shoes of someone who is being bullied. “Walk in My Shoes” (by Todd Werner) is a song that fits that situation. It invites children to:
Imagine what you would see If you could see the world through me You know I’d do the same for you That’s how peace begins – with you.
This offers the child the opportunity to empathize with those that are being bullied, as well as understanding why it is not acceptable to bully others.
Teaching children to “do unto others” is made simpler with the song “The Golden Rule,” by Jim Rule, a song which asks the child to “think about the way that you’d like to be treated.” The song’s chorus reiterates the point of the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It asks them to stop and think how they are treating others and to image whether they’d like to be treated the same way. It’s a good way to give children a perspective on their own behavior.
Jennifer Fixman has written a song that helps children understand that it’s okay to stand up for yourself. “Stand Up for Your Beliefs” encourages children to have the confidence to speak their minds and trust in themselves. The chorus inspires them to assert themselves:
Stand up for what you believe in. It takes one person to be strong. Think of all you want to achieve. Then find a way to right what’s wrong.
The chorus of “Fearless” by Bullyproof Music is almost a cheerleading fight song for having confidence in yourself.
Wanna be fearless…like I was right at the start Wanna stay grateful, be faithful ‘n keep an open heart Wanna be hopeful even when I have got my doubts ‘Cause if I keep love as my answer, well, I’m bound to work it out Just gotta be fearless …
Jan Nigro’s “Step Up, Speak Out!” urges children to notify someone when they see bullying going on. They are encouraged to get help or speak up and not keep silent.
When you know in your deepest heart What you’re seeing is wrong, Silence isn’t golden, What’s golden is that you are strong! Step up speak out make some kind of move! Don’t just walk away there’s no time to lose! Get some help if you feel you need to! Show what you got, cause you gotta come through!
Teachers and parents can download anti bullying songs, lyrics, and lesson plans for use in teaching children to be confident. Songs for Teaching encourages new artists to submit their music and receive exposure through their website, as well as royalties and promotion (but they do charge a fee).
Tips and Strategies
Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center offers guidelines for teachers to employ when confronted with bullying situations.
- Stop bullying immediately — get between the bully and the bullied student; talk to the parties separately when they have calmed down.
- Let them know the school has rules that don’t allow bullying
- Support the bullied child — preserve dignity, but reassure the child; increase supervision
- Offer guidance to those involved as well as bystanders
- Impose immediate consequences that fit the infraction
- Notify parents
- Follow up — discuss the situation with the parties; offer coping mechanisms
It is important, however not to confuse a disagreement with bullying or victimization. Not every conflict is an episode of bullying. There are recognized methods to employ in the circumstance of legitimate bullying. Don’t use peer mediation or group treatment. It’s difficult for children to face their tormentors, and a group atmosphere can intimidate the bullied child, while often encouraging children to “gang up” on the weaker ones. There are other more efficient ways to accomplish counseling and treat these behaviors. Try not to do more harm than good. (Teaching Tolerance)
In addition to Songs for Teaching, there are a number of helpful resources for materials on bullying, suggestions for prevention, teaching programs, and reporting information.
- Bully Bust — campaign to reduce bullying in schools by teaching students and adults how to stand up to bullying and promote “upstander” behavior (behavior that advocates doing something about bullying)
- Bully Police USA — offers links to anti-bullying laws and advocates for bullied children
- Committee for Children — violence prevention education, teaching emotional skills
- National Center for Bullying Prevention — information, programs, surveys, petitions, activities, and strategies to combat bullying
- National Education Association (NEA) — anti-bullying resources and materials * Stop Bullying Now — interactive website for awareness, prevention, and intervention (Teaching Tolerance)
Resources for songs teaching anti bullying techniques:
- Randy Sauer, musician and performer, has created a musical that teaches children how to deal with bullying. “I Know How to Deal with a Bully” contains original songs and audience participation roles for children, along with choreography suggestions and instructions for teachers.
- Sing. Dance. Learn. – offers information on caring, courage, fairness, and respect, including the “Hey Bully Song,” which educates children on handling bullies.
- Nick, Jr. — Songs and videos from their Anti Bullying Initiative
- Have Fun Teaching — downloadable songs about friendship and bullying, including the “Hey Bully” song
- “Free You, Be You” — Song and video by Evolve Film Productions with a hopeful message for victims of bullying
With all the resources available for teaching tools today, teachers and parents have a chance to bring a positive message to children, impressing upon them the need to possess an awareness of their self-worth and stand up to those who treat them with disrespect. No child should have to endure a life of fear and degradation. Using the power of song to communicate a sense of self-worth to children and to encourage them to believe in themselves can be a simple but effective approach to the complex problem of bullying.