Program policies spell out expectations for children, adults

The 2016 Seneca County Health Assessment revealed that 44 percent of area youth reported being bullied in the past year. Youth violence/bullying was identified as one of the priorities to be addressed by the Seneca County Health Alliance’s Community Health Improvement Plan. For that reason, a Seneca County Bullying Prevention Coalition was formed to research bullying in Seneca County and determine effective means of prevention. This coalition is made up of concerned citizens, community leaders and local organizations involved with youth. The coalition is gathering information from local entities to help the community become more aware of the practices that are currently in place to prevent bullying behaviors.

The second in a series is this column written by Amanda Johnson, child care director, Tiffin Community YMCA.

The seventh-grade student in my after-school program was in tears and pacing. He was upset because he feels like nobody in the program likes him, and they pick on him because he “is different.” He also feels like no one at school wants to be his friend.

He stated he is bullied every day at school by a boy who calls him names, tells him “really mean things” and gets his friends to hit and kick him when they change classes. He said one child in the after-school program mutters mean things to him when the teachers aren’t watching.

Bullying; it is not a new topic in our school systems or our workplaces. As adults, we know this is wrong and have the ability to talk to people and find a way to handle the situation. What do we do when our own child or a child in our care comes to us and says they are being bullied?

In our child care polices, we clearly state adult and child behavior expectations. We will not tolerate verbal harassment or negative physical actions from any adult or child in our programs. We train our staff to recognize and enforce positive behavior. We have consistent expectations for all children. We plan activities that enforce the YMCA character values of:

• Honesty — Be truthful in what you say and do.

• Caring — Show concern for others.

• Respect — Follow the Golden Rule: If you don’t want someone to say or do something to you, don’t say or do it to others.

• Responsibility — Be accountable for your actions and promises.

From YMCA of the USA Day Camp Fundamentals, April 2016.

We speak with the children in our programs. We start by explaining the difference between “being a tattle-tale” and speaking up when something is wrong. Tattling is when we tell a teacher or adult that someone is following them in line (yes, that really is an issue) or when they tell a parent/guardian that someone won’t stop looking at them. Bullying behavior is telling someone to go hurt themselves, posting things online about a person that they would not say in person or intentionally doing or saying something to a person over and over again when they know their actions will cause that person to become angry or upset.

We know our program participants spend a lot of time together. Most of the children in our programs are with us every week during the school year and 11 out of 12 weeks during summer break. We try to explain we may not like everyone we meet, and that is OK. It does not give us the right to say or do hurtful things to another person that we wouldn’t want done or said to us.

Having clear and consistent expectations may help the children in our programs become more confident with themselves and help them develop an ability to show kindness to all.