Babies and Bullying

BABIES are to be used in classrooms throughout Scotland as part of a pioneering initiative to reduce levels of bullying and aggression. The Herald in Scotland reports that the project, called Roots of Empathy, encourages children to interact in a nurturing manner with each other by bringing a baby and its parent into the classroom over the course of a school year.

Pupils are shown the attentive, loving interaction between the parent and child in a bid to teach them to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. The primary focus of the programme is to reduce problem behaviour, including fighting and bullying.

Louise Warde-Hunter, strategic director of children’s services at Action for Children, which is running the project, said it helped schoolchildren to get along.

“This raises levels of empathy among classmates, resulting in more respectful relationships and a dramatic reduction in levels of aggression among schoolchildren,” she said. “By increasing levels of emotional literacy in children at a young age we can lay the foundation for safe and caring classrooms and, in the long-term, safe and caring societies.”

That makes perfect sense to me but I’m still trying to get round the idea of bringing Baby F to school. I’m sure the kids would ooh and aah (well I hope they would) but the whole ‘bring a baby to school’ idea would involve quite a bit of organization and involvement from the mother (L in this case). Not practical for us since L is already swamped at work and I’m trying to get up to speed with the requirements of being a school psychologist 12 years after I last worked as a school counselor.

I’m enjoying it but there’s a fair amount of anxiety about living up to the standard set by my illustrious predecessor, who earned his PhD in Psychology in his last six months here and was a much-liked and respected speaker at schools and conferences. I’m lucky if I manage to get to one conference a year so the idea of actually presenting at a conference seems light years away.
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I’m pretty pleased that I’ve managed to post something since I’m usually so discouraged by the lack of sustained concentration when it comes to blogging that I don’t post anything at all. Perhaps I’m losing my blogging enthusiasm. But one thing I would really like is if any of my blogging friends managed to find me on Goodreads so that I can keep up-to-date with what people are reading and have read and recommended.
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Quite unrelatedly, L and I were browsing through Exclusive Books on Sunday when we saw a series of Gruffalo-related soft toys. They’re delightful and I was very tempted but eventually we thought that a book was probably more worthwhile. While we were admiring the true-to-the-book likeness of the toys, security arrived and were escorted into the backroom where the booksellers were keeping a shoplifter. I gathered that the shoplifter was a she and that she was black but other than that I didn’t hear anything more and felt a bit bad about being too curious. I remember that in the London riots the looters smashed all the windows in one street except Waterstones (which the commenters saw as a sign of the times – trainers being far more in vogue than books). But now I can’t help being curious. What was this woman trying to steal? Perhaps a DVD or a magazine. I can’t imagine anyone stuffing The Gruffalo under their jacket. But what if it was something for her child? Would we think any differently about it?

On the same topic, if you want to hear what Jenny Diski has to say about shoplifting (and her own shoplifting of books as a young teacher) then check out the podcasts at The New Yorker. I’m still reading and enjoying her Skating to Antartica but I don’t have anything interesting or profound to say about that.

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16 Responses to Babies and Bullying

  1. Good to see you back, Pete. I’m on goodreads, so please just add me. I also enjoy seeing what people are reading. (You can find the link on my blog or website). My kids’ school did the roots of empathy program–but no need to participate if you’re too busy! I’m sure you’ll do fine in the school.

  2. Bee says:

    Like you, I’m spending more time at Goodreads these days. (I’ve started teaching again, so I’m constantly reading children’s and YA lit.) Please look me up: Beth Bonini

    I wonder if the baby/empathy project will be successful? I’m a bit sceptical, to be honest.

    • Pete says:

      Hi Bee, I tried to add you as a friend but it said “pending request” so not sure if that worked. I’d love to see some of the children’s and YA lit that you’re reading. And as for the empathy project, I love the idea but not sure that it would work here.

  3. litlove says:

    Now, I can never get around to uploading my recent reads on Goodreads but I do manage to blog. It’s funny, isn’t it, what fits into the routine and what doesn’t! Bringing babies into school sounds sort of okay, but is it going to cause an uproar if I say that girls would probably respond to it better than boys? Only I can’t see my son having any interest whatsoever in a baby. But perhaps that’s just him! And I vote for the Gruffalo cuddly toy – my son once chose a cuddly over a chocolate egg for Easter. That’s how much kids love their cuddlies! (But I’m sure the book will be much loved too.)

    • Pete says:

      Hi litlove. Also tried to add you on Goodreads but it didn’t work. And you’re very good about reviewing books on your blog so I get more than enough reading recommendations there. When I read one of your reviews I usually have to add the book to my TBR list so it’s a mixed blessing!

      As for the roots of empathy project, I think you’re quite right that boys won’t take readily to it. Perhaps I should add here that we have a pre-prep on the school grounds and the boys are far more interested in the ‘yummy mummies’ than developing empathy towards the little ones! I think the developers of that programme are spot-on to say that empathy begins in those early infant years and in wanting children to identify with their ‘inner children’. But as you say, teenage boys are far more interested in other things.

      • doctordi says:

        It depends on the age of the boys, perhaps. I have been amazed by the number of primary school boys who have rubbernecked at the sight of Master J on the beach promenade, they have been very interested in him, and one of my friend’s kids honestly couldn’t have been more engaged had he been a dolly-toting little girl. But by high school, yes, I can imagine the interest shifting rather dramatically to the yummy mummies!!

  4. litlove says:

    Lol – I know, same thing happens to me when I visit Danielle and Stefanie, et al. You should see the size of my tbr!! Tell you what was good, though, when my son was growing up: he went to a childminder when he was 4-6 and she had a baby girl. The childminder was just excellent and taught him how to behave around her and he’s always been good with younger children since then. It’s so much easier to do when the kids are not siblings! Oh and I meant to say on my first comment – your baby gets cuter with every photo! It’s lovely when they learn to sit up (and so much better for the digestion….)

  5. smithereens says:

    Glad to see your post today! Adjusting to a new job takes time and is always stressful – so breathe and take your time! Last weekend Smithereens junior and I went to see the Gruffalo movie and we were both delighted.

  6. Your baby just keeps getting cuter and cuter…hard to believe our girls are going to be one year old in a few short months! Honestly, I can’t imagine taking E into a school but the idea is a great one – I’ll be interested to hear what comes of it. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to blog – between a baby and a new job most of your brain power is being used up! I imagine you’ll find your fire for it again down the line…

    • Pete says:

      Hard to believe is right, Courtney! And I loved your photos of E. Can’t wait to see her walking. (Baby F is not even sure she wants to crawl yet. Why crawl when you get everything brought to you?) I still hope to do the occasional post so not giving up yet on the blog.

  7. doctordi says:

    CUTIE-PIE photo, Pete! She is sooo adorable. Glad everything is going well – don’t forget your predecessor had time to build his following, so don’t neglect to give yourself some to settle in and forge those bonds with the staff and students. You’ll do a great job.

    • Pete says:

      Thanks for the reassurance, Di. And I find any photo of her cute – this one shows that babies don’t mind even when Dad gets the clothes colour-coordination wrong! Dada still seems to be her hero (and Mama too although she hardly says Mama).

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