Alexandra Penn, founder of Champions Against Bullying and author of the award-winning, Ministry-of-Education-recommended interactive CD-ROM, "The No-Nonsense Guide To Kids' Bullying Solutions," is a leading expert on school bullying and youth violence. She continues to expose its enemies - the silence, denial, shame and blame that surround, hide and perpetuate the abuse. Penn is an internationally certified trainer in youth violence prevention, a crisis intervention specialist, a parent coach, writer/editor, dynamic workshop leader, keynote speaker, mother of two and founding member of the Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention in Canada. As a counselor in Special Education at the Board of Education, her breakthrough work with an autistic child inspired a video used as a teaching tool at the world-renowned Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Canada.
A well-respected specialist in the field, Penn is known for her sass factor, warmth, and insight. Workshops and keynotes are tailored for schools, kids, parents and educators, universities, associations, and corporations. She quickly puts everyone at ease, opens the lines of communication, and creates a dialogue,
Penn maintains, "Children's mental health is directly linked to their academic success and removing the obstacles that impede learning, such as fear, are crucial. Today's children are tomorrow's leaders - your leaders, our leaders. It's up to all of us to decide how we want them to evolve. Kids need our help. They can't fix it themselves. Together we can make it happen!"
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What Alexandra Has to Say...
Q: One Champions Against Bullying preschool workshop is named "We Feel Good." Could you talk about why reaching children in pre-school is an essential first step in the prevention of bullying?
A: Bullying in preschool happens more often than most people realize and believe. Kids barely out of training pants are being expelled. As one preschool teacher said, "I was shocked to see how often three and four-year-olds in my class, especially the boys, would punch and kick other children when they thought I wasn't looking."
Telling your child to ignore it or toughen up leaves him unprotected and doesn't solve anything. Whether your child is the bully, target, or bystander, he needs the tools to bring it to a halt ASAP.
Reaching children in preschool and providing them with the respectful tools of language, along with social and emotional skills, boosts successful learning and reduces aggressive behavior.
The sooner the better. If we leave it until later, we simply are applying bandages.
Responding to their needs, my colleague and I wrote, "There's A Bully In My Belly," for the preschool and early childhood crowds. It's an entertaining, accessible read, as kids learn how to prevent and solve a bullying situation. The book also offers a parent and teacher guide loaded with activities, role-playing, and discussions.
Q: You witness a kid engaging in bullying behavior. You have an opportunity to say one sentence to him. What is it?
A: Assuming the target is smaller than the bully, I would get between the two of them and ensure that nobody is hurt. Then, I would suggest the bully imagine how he would feel if he saw this happening to his younger brother. Would he like it? What would he do?
I would schedule separate follow-up meetings with the target and the bully and a third meeting that has the bully apologizing to the target. I would also inform both sets of parents, separately. I would then check in with the target in a couple of weeks to confirm that he is safe.