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October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month: Check Out An Unusual Strategy To Help Stop Out Bullying

date posted:

Friday, October 28, 2016


October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month: Check Out An Unusual Strategy To Help Stop Out Bullying



Jamie Davis Smith Photographer :: Writer :: Explorer :: Coffee Lover


Board games are a staple of childhood. While most games involve children working against each other to be the first to reach a target, get all the cards, or earn the most points, other board games involve working cooperatively to achieve a common goal.

For many children, National Bullying Prevention Month is personally meaningful because they have been victims in the past. But, the month also represents an opportunity to teach all children skills they can use to work cooperatively with others to help them be kind to one another, even if they will never be best friends. How can we reach children early to help stop bullying?

Donna Jaffe, the President of Peaceable Kingdom, believes that cooperative games children already love can help children develop social skills, positive behavior, and consequently help combat bullying.

Cooperative board games exist for children of all ages - from Hoot Owl Hoot! and The Little Orchard for preschoolers and young children, to Castle Panic and Forbidden Island for older children and their families, to Pandemic, a strategy game for adults. In all of these games all players work as a single team and either win together or lose together, although the level of difficulty varies by skill level.

The ways in which cooperative games benefit children are numerous. According to Jaffe, the main benefits of cooperative games are:

1. Cooperative games encourage empathy.

Empathy is the ability to name and recognize feelings, in yourself and others. There are many ways to build empathy, but the most successful are those that integrate the learning into something that is playful and fun. Children don’t play cooperative games to be more emphatic, it just happens as a result of playing as a single team with a single goal where all players are tied to the outcome in a way that makes them share the emotional ups and downs of the game. With these games, players feel each other’s’ experience and respond to their feelings. When one player has to do something in the game that is not beneficial or might “help the bad guy,” often another player will feel that twinge of anxiety and say something to comfort that player.

2. Cooperative games teach kids to share.

Sharing is a small act of generosity with big impact, for both the receiver and the giver. When kids share because they want to, not because they are forced to, they actually feel better about themselves. For example, imagine sharing the movers in a board game. Instead of each player having his own mover and trying to get to the finish line first, all players use their turn to move all the pieces in whichever way is best. It’s a fairly radial thought at first for kids, but once they realize they’re working together, the sharing happens without even thinking.

3. Cooperative games are inclusive.

Everyone knows how to play Musical Chairs the competitive way, but cooperative Musical Chairs is the ultimate competitive game alternative. In cooperative musical chairs no player is ever “out.” Instead, players start with one chair less than the number of players and continue to eliminate chairs each round without eliminating players. Ever seen eight kids climb all over each other to “sit” on one chair? When they do, they are demonstrating teamwork without an enemy. This gives kids the feeling of being included and valued, as well as a sense of belonging to the group. In contrast, have you ever seen two kids scramble to be the only one to sit in the last remaining chair in competitive musical chairs? It’s a battle. The child who loses naturally feels as anyone would under those circumstances - like a loser and mad at themselves or others. Feelings of unworthiness, sadness, loneliness, or anxiousness can breed aggression. Bullies are fueled by those feelings.

4. Cooperative games build habits of cooperation.

Playing cooperative games gets kids in the habit of working together. Our lives are acculturated to competition - at home, in school, and in sports. Competition is stressful for many kids and sometimes that stress can lead kids to see themselves as rivals rather than peers. Under these circumstances, some kids become dominant while others become more timid. Cooperative games build cooperative habits as a group, such as problem-solving, sharing in decision-making, taking turns, and respecting other players’ input. Respect is a key ingredient in the best examples of cooperation. Imagine what it would be like for a kid who has been bullied or who has been seen as a bully to be part of team where his opinions are honored.

5. Cooperative games have the potential to change our world.

A sustainable, healthy, vibrant and peaceful planet needs people to work together, that is, to cooperate. Cooperative habits are those that look beyond ourselves for our own gain and to the greater good for all. It starts with learning how to play together and teaching children how to work cooperatively. Reaching children through play is an obvious place to start.

Take the opportunity to help kids learn good social skills and while they are doing what they love doing best - playing games!