7 Ways to Teach Kids Kindness That Will Reduce Bullying

For over three decades I’ve studied how to reduce bullying, but some of the best solutions come from students. One ten-year old told me: “I used to bully kids at my “old school,” but stopped when I got here.” “What’s different about this school?” I asked. “The kids,” he said, “they stick up for each other and let me know the very first day that bullying isn’t cool here.”

The students proved the latest data: bullying is far less likely to happen in classrooms and school cultures where kindness is the norm. Empowering students to work together to create a caring environment is one of the most overlooked strategies in bullying prevention. After all, bullying breeds where empathy lies dormant and aggression is tolerated.

Here are seven ideas to help children learn that kindness is the best way to reduce bullying from my new book End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Reducing bullying is not a quick fix, but a systemic, deliberate approach that includes the 6Rs of effective bullying prevention: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace. But the foundation is always respectful relationships and a caring climate.

1. Assign friendly greeters. Every school has friendly, kind students whose skill set can be a powerful model for peers. Identify them to serve as student greeters who welcome entering students (“Hi!” “Glad you’re here!” “Have a good day”) at the school or classroom door. Then watch a positive change in just a short while as students began to look forward to the greeting. Parents can do the same at home by modeling and reinforcing their children’s kind statements and actions and encouraging their friends to do the same.

2. Form welcome wagons. New kids can feel the pain of exclusion and are more likely to be bullied. So, initiate a student “Welcome Wagon Committee” to greet newcomers, give them a school tour, pair them with “veteran” students and feel welcomed. Parents can cultivate empathy by asking children: “How would you feel if you were brand new? What would you want a peer to do for you? How can you do that for others?”

3. Initiate “stop bullying” clubs. Kid groups can be as small as two or as large as the whole school and meet before or after school, over lunchtime, or at home on weekends. Kids can work together to create banners, buttons and even YouTube videos that feature the concept: “Let’s stop bullying and be kind.” Encourage community groups (Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, scouts, youth ministries) to work with interested kids to boost kindness beyond school walls.

4. Set a “no put-downs” rule. I’ve visited many schools and knew instantly they were curbing unkindness: students made signs and displayed them at their front doors: “Unkindness is not allowed.” “This Is a No Put-Downs Zone.” The effect was potent! Establish norm that “our school or home stands for kindness” same in your Scout troops, athletic leagues and neighborhood.

5. Teach kids how to help peers. Over 13,000 of surveyed students said that the most helpful things peers can do for students who are bullied is to include and encourage them. Kids also say they need to know how to help. So, brainstorm ways to help and comfort others such as: Call the person to say you’re sorry. Text a note saying he didn’t deserve to be treated like that. Ask if she wants to have lunch together. Offer to help report the bullying to a teacher or parent. Let the peer know she’s not alone. Say: “Is there anything I can do?” “Are you okay?” If practiced often enough kids will use those prosocial skills at school and at home.

6. Stress kindness: University of British Columbia researchers found that children who perform small acts of kindness may help counteract bullying. The more aware kids are of ways to be kind, the most likely they’ll use kind behaviors. Brainstorm together easy ways to be kind that don’t cost a dime. Post the list, keep adding to it, and acknowledge kids’ heart-hearted efforts.

7. Give opportunities to be kind. Most important: encourage your children to be kind and then reinforce their efforts! Children who are given the opportunity to help others tend to become more helpful-especially if the effective of their kindness on those they helped was pointed out. So, describe the impact: “Kevin was so happy when you asked him to play.” “Did you see Sarah’s smile when you shared your…”

Bullying remains the most serious and underrated public health problem in our schools, often causing students physical and emotional distress and significantly impacting their learning performance. Respectful relationships are the ultimate antidote to bullying, and it’s up to adults to help children realize that kindness wins!


Bullying-prevention and character expert Michele Borba, Ed.D. has spent the past three decades studying youth violence and bullying and worked with more than a million students, parents, educators, and law enforcement officials worldwide. The result is End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy: The Proven 6Rs of Bullying Prevention That Create Inclusive, Safe and Caring Schools. Based on the 6Rs: Rules, Recognize, Report, Respond, Refuse, and Replace, the book utilizes the strongest pieces of best practices and current research for ways to reduce cruelty and increase positive behavior support. Also included are guidelines for implementing strategies, nurturing empathy and caring relationships, collecting data, training staff, mobilizing students and parents, building social-emotional skills, and sustaining progress. The result is a proven framework that will reduce bullying, create safer more inclusive schools and produce more kind-hearted, empathetic children. End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy will be available February 12th at amazon.com

About the Author

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is the author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World, and is an internationally renowned educational psychologist and a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 23 books including her new release, THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. She is a regular NBC contributor who appears regularly on TODAY and has been featured as an expert on Dateline, The View, Dr Phil, NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, Dr. Oz, and The Early Show. She lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and is the mother of three grown sons. Dr. Borba is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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