We’ve all heard the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” When it comes to bullying, though, this may not prove true. In fact, recent studies show a link between bullying and learning delays in school settings.

Many studies have shown the connection between a child’s well being and his or her academic success. For example, a child struggling with anxiety over test taking is often likely to be so distracted by the anxiety that he or she performs poorly on said test regardless of content knowledge. A recent Australian study has dug deeper, demonstrating the link between delays in academics and bullying. It has shown that 20% of upper elementary students experience persistent bullying and that a substantial number of students are behind in their learning. Students experiencing these problems are likely to fall at least 12 months behind in math and reading achievement.

So what can be done? Consider these few tips to create an anti-bullying environment in your home and school:

  1. Practice what you preach! Be an example of patience, kindness, and treating others with respect. How do we respond when things don’t go our way? When someone cuts us off in traffic? The more our children and students see respect being modeled, the more likely they are to emulate that example.
  2. Listen! Talk to your students or children about what bullying is and how to respond to bullying. Those with a listening ear are less likely to resort to bullying when facing difficult social or emotional situations. In addition, if children feel free to discuss bullying before situations arise, then they will also be more open to discussing it if it happens to them.
  3. Take action! If you see bullying on the school yard or playground, don’t sit idly by. Approach the adult in charge and explain what you saw so that they can address the situation right away. Immediate action can help break a habit of bullying behaviors. As students see this approach, then perhaps they will also take the initiative when they witness bullying.

The less bullying that occurs, the greater a climate of respect, empathy, and kindness can grow. Creating an anti-bullying culture is a goal of just about any school, and like many things, this cultural shift starts at home.