Reduce Bullying Teaching Kids About Their Emotions

Nov 23, 2013 by

If you’re going to be successful you’ve got to build that emotional intelligence

At a symposium Friday on reducing bullying and improving school climate, Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, told a crowd of about 200 educators that bullying prevention programs “are mostly ineffective.”

About 28 percent of children report that they are bullied regularly in school — a percentage that has stayed about the same since 2005.

“Why are we spending billions of dollars a year on approaches that don’t seem to make a difference?” Brackett asked.

Brackett’s program that he has developed with the Center for Emotional Intelligence takes a “whole school approach” that teaches both children and staff about social and emotional learning.

With that approach Brackett said, “You get more than just less bullying. What you get is children with greater well-being, teachers with less stress and burnout, a more positive school climate, a better academic performance, and the list goes on.”

Sponsored by the Governor’s Prevention Partnership as well as the Center for Emotional Intelligence and Webster Bank, the symposium held at Yale’s West Campus attracted school administrators, teachers, school social workers and others interested in learning about emotional intelligence.

“How many believe your lives would be somewhat more healthy and maybe even a little happier if you were more skilled at regulating your own emotions?” Brackett asked his audience at one point.

A scattering of hands went up, somewhat hesitantly. Then he reversed the question. “How many feel that your lives would be better if everybody who you lived with …” He didn’t have to finish the question. The crowd erupted in laughter.

Brackett said he spends a lot of time working to convince people that emotions matter and that the ability to understand and handle those emotions effectively can make a big difference in the lives of adults and children whether at home, at work or in school.

The program helps students and staff learn about their feelings, how to label and monitor those feelings, as well as techniques for handling strong emotions and for recognizing how others feel.

“Research shows that if you name it, you can tame it,” Brackett said. “If you can’t name your feelings, it’s very hard to know what to do with them.”

The name of the program, “RULER” stands for five key emotional skills: recognizing an emotion, understanding it, labeling it, expressing it and regulating that emotion.

Brackett said that students with greater social and emotional intelligence are less anxious, less depressed, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, less likely to bully others, and more likely to perform well academically.

Fran Rabinowitz, superintendent of schools in Hamden, brought Brackett’s program to her district two-and-a-half years ago. The social and emotional intelligence of students and teachers is critical, she said.

“You can’t move forward in education without building that emotional intelligence of kids and unfortunately in many instances that has fallen off the radar screen,” Rabinowitz said, speaking on a panel at Friday’s event.

“Over the last ten years, all we have seemed to concentrate on is academic achievement and I understand that is incredibly important for students,” Rabinowitz said. But, she said, “If you’re going to be successful you’ve got to build that emotional intelligence and then we can work on ‘Common Core’ and teachers” evaluations.

Rabinowitz said she chose Brackett’s “RULER” program because “it had components that would in fact reach everyone in my school district,” Rabinowitz said from students, to teachers, to bus drivers, and administrative support staff.

Since the start of the program, Rabinowitz said she has seen a significant drop in the number of suspensions at the middle school, fewer bullying incidents, and improved achievement, but she said, it’s difficult to say how closely those gains are related to the district’s focus on raising emotional intelligence.

But, she added: “The research is there. If a kid feels good about themselves and their environment, they are certainly going to learn more. If they don’t, it’s an impediment to learning.”

Many of those in the audience said they came to learn more about emotional intelligence and how it can be improved.

Sabrina Breland, principal of the Wexler-Grant school in New Haven said such a program would be helpful for all students in the district, including those who are identified as bullies. “They have a lot of challenges that need addressing,” she said, “so I think this is a way to not only help the victims, but help the aggressor as well.”

via Yale Expert Says Reduce Bullying Teaching Kids About Their Emotions –

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