Guest Post: Playworks

October is Bullying Prevention Month. Today we’re excited to welcome Susan Comfort, Executive Director of Playworks, DC to share how their program’s strategies help create a safe, healthy environment for kids to play and be active every day!

by Susan Comfort

October is the time of year that Playworks DC Coaches at our 15 schools choose the 4th and 5th graders who are going to serve as “Junior Coaches” for the rest of the year. And we don’t always choose the star students. We purposely choose the shy kids, too, and even the bullies, who use their leadership talents in the wrong direction.

For example, Tayona Moss was chosen at Amidon-Bowen Elementary. At the beginning of her 4th grade year, she admits, “Before I became a Junior Coach, I was fighting a lot and I used to cheat on games. But now I play fair and follow the rules. Now I know how to handle my anger better and step back or give in. I was even elected student government president!”

Since October is Bullying Prevention Month, here are four proactive approaches that Playworks staff employ every day…

  • Teach Empathy. Children who understand their own emotions are better able to control their reactions. Children who understand others’ emotions are better able to comfort their peers or avoid hurting others in the first place.
  • Encourage positive attitudes. By modeling and encouraging positivity, you can create a positive culture. Smile. Pass out high fives and fist bumps. Notice efforts out loud, such as by saying “Nice throw, James“or “I saw you tried your hardest, Ayesha.”
  • Create an inclusive community. Challenge your community to work together as a team rather than compete to be the best. When creating teams, do so in a fair manner. Never call out or exclude individuals for their race, gender or ability.
  • Develop youth leaders, like Junior Coaches. Kids who exhibit bullying behavior respond well to personal attention and accountability. Also, kids know best when, where and how bullying and teasing occurs in their community. They are your best tools and resources to creating a culture that does not accept bullying.

For more information on Playworks, Washington DC, visit www.playworks.org/communities/dc

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