Moms take on bullying with new kindness program

Moms take on bullying with new kindness program

SYLVANIA, OH (WTOL) - There's a bigger, badder tool in the fight against bullying. It involves moms, frustrated at the meanness their children face every day.

This group of moms is rising up. Not to fight, but to spread kindness in the classroom. The students say it's working.

Every day at St. Joseph School begins on a positive note, when morning announcements highlight stories of kindness between students.

"It's a simple thing, and it seems to resonate with the little kids," said Carole Lindsley, assistant principal at St. Joseph's School in Sylvania.

That is just one aspect of the Kindness Matters program, the brain child of Danielle Schroeder and Tara Stoll.

Schroeder and Stoll are moms who decided maybe the answer to bullying is teaching kindness instead.

"It was really just a reflection of stuff that we had seen with our own kids. You know, little things," said Stoll. "I think with kids, a lot of times they don't even realize necessarily that they're being mean," said Stoll.

"We started doing a bunch of research about kindness programs and noticing that anti-bullying programs didn't really work. We wanted to shift the focus from the bully to the ones who are making the right choices," said Schroeder.

It turns out there is something to this method that's working. Researchers say using positive messaging like, 'be kind to others,' 'say "sorry" when you make a mistake' or 'help someone when they're in need,' are really working with children, much more than negative messaging.

"School-based bullying prevention programs reduced bullying behaviors and victimization by over 25 percent.

"The most important factor is social and emotional learning. It's not necessarily about consequence, though that is a part of it," said psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Kelly.

The team of eleven mom coaches started five months ago at the school.

They go into classrooms once a month and teach a lesson to kindergarten through 5th graders.

"I think it's really fun. I think it's really helpful as well. It can help me defend myself and my friends from bullies," said fifth grader Sarah Daschbach.

"Of course, we as a school has always talked the talk. We try to walk the walk, of course. I just think the partnership with parents sends a strong message. What we really like though, is the focus on kindness," said Lindsley.

"I think it's really helping our school. A lot of people have been being nicer, and it's just a fun way to learn about stuff," said Braden Byram, fifth grader.

"It makes their behavior a little nicer," said second grader Charlotte Hoyt. "After they come in, it's not mean as much."

Dr. Kelly says studies show programs like these are the most effective in fighting bullying and meet this criteria.

"They're school based, intense and repetitive, lasting throughout the year. They're scheduled. The message trickles down from administration, to teachers to the classrooms. And, they involve parents."

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