It was a simple idea thought up by a 6th grade teacher while on a bike ride, but it sparked a national movement.
In 2012, 6th grade teacher Eric Johnson noticed increasing meanness among his students. He wanted to rebuild the community his classroom had once enjoyed, but did not want to stand in front of the room and give one more lecture on bullying. Instead, he let his students take the lead.
On a sleepy Monday, as the students began their work, Johnson cleared the whiteboard and showed a video on how to stand up against bullying. The following morning, he wrote one word on the board: meanness.
As the week progressed, Johnson and his students watched more videos and had open discussions, led by the students, about how our words can affect others and define them, as well as ourselves. Together they brainstormed words that could erase meanness and replace it with kindness. At the end of the final day, the whiteboard was filled with a rainbow of kind words, all student written, surrounding the big question “How Do You Want to Be Remembered?”
Following this lesson, Johnson blogged the impact it had in his classroom and the idea spread like wildfire. Teachers around the country adapted the lesson for their own students and within two years, an entire website had been dedicated to the cause of erasing meanness. Today, people from countries all over the world can participate in Worldwide Erase Meanness Pledge Day on September 16th, joining with thousands of others to stand against meanness and stand up for kindness.
To get the full impact of this lesson, visit Johnson’s blog, which he still keeps up today, offering insights and tips for education.
Here is what I love about this activity:
1. It is easy to do regardless of location or budget. The videos are a wonderful addition to the lesson, but the whiteboard activity alone is impactful.
2. It provides an alternative to bullying. We often teach children not to bully and not to be mean, but sometimes we forget to provide them with alternative behavior. Choosing not to bully can stop meanness, but acting with intentional kindness can change lives.
3. It encourages children to draw a connection between their words and the effect of those words in a tangible and unique way. Students are constantly told to be nice, not to bully, and to stand up for one another. However, as we all know, regardless of how important a topic is, once you’ve heard it 100 times, you begin to tune it out, and even become annoyed that you are being forced to hear it one more time. But this lesson is different. In this lesson, the children take an active role in defining meanness, as well as defining kindness. They physically walk up to the board and replace mean words with kind ones. They can visibly see how small actions of both kindness and meanness can quickly add up to create an entire atmosphere of either negativity or positivity.
4. It provides a visual reminder that small words can add up to have a big impact. I think we have a tendency to believe that our words don’t matter that much. We all know that words matter in a conceptual way, but too often forget this in practice. Most of us would never berate someone to their face or outright “bully”, but we don’t always keep track of all our words throughout the day. How often have we called someone an idiot or a jerk? How often have we been short with a cashier? How often have we ranted about another person without taking the time to consider their perspective? You might say, “But they never heard what I said!”, but with each word of meanness, you are training yourself to not think the best of others. You are attaching those negative words to that person. What may have seemed like a minor slip of rudeness to you could have been the final straw in someone’s awful day or terrible self-perception. I think that this lesson created for children can also have a huge impact on adults.
5. It is age-adaptable. As soon as children can speak, they learn words that are both kind and unkind. If they cannot write yet, write the words for them, or have magnetic pictures representing words that they can manipulate.
6. Not every mean word was erased. As much as we would like to believe that meanness and bullying can be completely eradicated, it just isn’t true, and we need to prepare our children for this reality. However, as Eric states in his blog, “… kindness and caring can overwhelm the unkind.”
Sometimes it is the simplest lessons that have the most profound impact, and I believe this lesson definitely fits in that category. The fact that this idea started with one man and has blossomed and spread into a national campaign is a testament in itself to the fact that one person can make difference!
If you love this lesson as much as I do, visit Erasemeanness.org to find the full lesson plan and accompanying resources. You can also join over 30,000 others and pledge to #EraseMeanness today!
The question we'd like you to answer in the comments is:
For another way to open discussion on bullying and meanness with young children, check out our latest release, This is A. Blob.
This is A. Blob is a masterfully illustrated picture book suitable for children ages 4-8. This is A. Blob is the first of a series following the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there may be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another. The book encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help
It's Labor Day!
For some, Labor Day is a day off to relax, maybe barbecue, and enjoy a day,well, not laboring. For others, it is the last hold on summer before school and commitments kick into high gear. But what is Labor Day supposed to mean? I decided to do a bit of research to find out.
According to the U.S Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” The first Labor Day celebration was held in 1882 in New York City -- a hub of industry and a shining example of the achievements of the working man. In these early days, the holiday was celebrated with a parade showing off various trades and organizations, followed by a festival for the amusement of the workers being honored. Essentially, the day was built to celebrate the working man and to give him or her a much needed day off to show gratitude for the labor which keeps America running.
Labor Day is a day to say “thank you” to America’s laborers, but how many of us take the time to show our thanks? I recently came across an article by Amy of the blog, Teach Mama, describing how she and her family decided to take their day off and make a difference. Inspired by a show on PBS Kids, she decided to make Labor Day, Neighbor Day-- a day filled with helping those nearby and making their day a little bit brighter. I love this idea, not only because it spreads kindness—something we need more of in this world—but also because it brings us back to the original intention of Labor Day—showing our love and gratitude to those around us.
To help with your Neighbor Day celebration, I have created a list of 11 easy ways to show kindness to those right on your own street:
1. Take over a pretty potted plant for them to enjoy or collect a bouquet from your own garden.
2. Mow your neighbor’s lawn—This is probably one of the kindest things you can do as most people dread this chore. Make sure you ask first, though!
3. Place a kind note in their mailbox. It could be a note of encouragement, a compliment on the house or gardening, or even an invitation to have lunch together sometime.
4. Take in their trash cans. This is a chore I always put off for some reason. If you know your neighbors well enough to know where they store their cans and you know they won’t mind you walking up their drive, take a couple extra minutes to bring them up from the curb.
5. Offer to help carry in groceries.
6. Offer to weed your neighbor’s garden.
7. Smile and say hello! This seems simple, but it’s amazing how such a small act can brighten a day! Check out our post from June about National Smile Power Day to learn how a smile really can make a difference!
8. Collect any litter that has accumulated along your street.
9. Pay one of your neighbor’s utility bills while you are paying yours. This idea came from the blog Mom It Forward and I absolutely love it. You never know when someone may be struggling between keeping the electricity on and buying groceries.
10. Make some cookies and bring them over to your neighbor. Now, this is one that may require some previous interaction with your neighbor. For example, you wouldn’t want to make cookies for a neighbor with diabetes or a nut allergy! If you know the person is lonely, bring some lemonade too and offer to stay and chat.
11. Bring over some good books—what better way to share a piece of your heart? For some books that teach the importance of kindness check out our post In A New Light!
These are just a few ideas to get you started! The great thing about each Neighbor Day activity is that each can be done on any day of the year and by someone of any age! What a great way to teach our children that kindness starts at home.
If these ideas get you energized, consider checking out these organizations for even more inspiration:
Small Acts Big Change- This group was actually started by kids and continues to be run by children today! They operate under the belief that small acts of kindness can cause big change in this world and from the results of their work—they’re right! Right now and through the whole month of September, Small Acts Big Change is hosting an entire month of Random Acts of Kindness. Each day they challenge their followers and themselves to complete a certain kindness challenge. Are you up for the challenge??
RandomActsOfKindness.org- An entire website dedicated to random acts of kindness! Check out the website for kindness ideas, stories, and resources for spreading kindness in your school or workplace.
Let us know in the comments how you plan on celebrating Labor Day—or Neighbor Day—this year!
Our latest release, This is A. Blob, by L.A Kefalos illustrates to children what can happen when bullying, instead of kindness, is let loose on the school playground. Find your copy on Amazon.com or at LaughingLeopardPress.com
They’re all the rage these past few years as Marvel unleashes movies in its Avenger’s series. From movies to purses to backpacks and now even to library summer reading programs, it’s hard to miss the superhero sensation! Walking through my local library, looking at the capes and hero emblems decorating the walls, I had to wonder: why are we so captivated by these masked vigilantes? I believe there are two reasons. First, superheroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things! They are standing up for the little guy and making the world a better place. Superheroes do what we are often too afraid to do ourselves.
The second reason for our superhero fascination is captured in the library’s summer reading tagline: “Every Hero Has a Story”. As much as we love to watch superhuman people perform amazing feats of bravery, we love it even more when we are given a glimpse of their humanity. We appreciate the real-life struggles each hero faces because we see ourselves. We begin to think, “If he can do it, maybe I can too…”
The truth is, there are no superheroes, but there are heroes.
They are ordinary people with ordinary stories who made extraordinary choices.
It is those choices that transform them. This is one of the most important lessons we can instill in our children. Not only can children look up to superheroes, they can BE superheroes! As our children gear up for another school year, this is an especially important message. School is filled with many wonderful things, but it can, unfortunately, also be full of hardships and trials. As hard as they try, teachers cannot be everywhere and situations will arise when children will have to take care of matters themselves. So what can we do to prepare our kids to make the choice to be heroes instead of bullies this school year?
Here is a list of activities to get you started:
1: Act like a hero
Talk with your kids about what makes someone a hero. Why do we look up to heroes? What qualities do we admire and how can we replicate them in our everyday lives? A fun way to visualize this is to create a collage. Have your child cut out pictures of people he or she admires (they don’t necessarily have to be superheroes) along with words that describe that admirable person such as honor, truth, and courage. Help them to see that this is how a hero behaves.
Discuss a few small ways your child can be a hero at school, such as always being respectful and honest with his or her teacher, sitting with someone at lunch who doesn’t have a friend, or refusing to participate in bullying activities. Marvel actually made some awesome special edition comic book covers in support of bully prevention month that show favorite superheroes preventing bullying. These could serve as great inspiration for ways your child can be a hero instead of a bully!
Also be sure to check out an earlier blog post we wrote called In a New Light for some tips and books to prepare your child to deal with bullying.
A quick word of caution: kids are still kids and while it is our job to teach them how to handle life on their own, we need to be sure to let them know when it is time to call for adult backup. Hey, even Batman called for reinforcements sometimes!
2. Talk like a hero
This is a tip I picked up from the fantastic blogger Carrots are Orange. When her children are fighting and the inevitable name calling begins, she asks them the simple question: “Is this how heroes talk? Would a hero say ‘stupid’?” If mean names and insults start flying, recall the hero collages and ask your child if he or she is acting very much like a hero right now. Chances are, they will see their words more clearly.
3. Dress like a hero
4. Be a hero!
With your child, act out different scenarios they might encounter at school, such as one student calling another stupid, gossiping about the teacher, pushing, or being left out at recess. Talk about how a hero would behave in these situations. What are words, phrases, and actions that could help the situation instead of make it worse? Discuss how it probably won’t be easy and it might even be a little scary to speak up and go against the flow. It might be hard to choose kind words over angry ones or to not call names in retaliation, but remind them that
difficult is not impossible.
Especially not for a hero! Remind your child to look down at his or her hero bracelet and choose to be a hero today. And remind him or her that sometimes heroes call for backup. Make a list of adults your child can go to in times of trouble and discuss what those situations might look like. Think of this list as a superhero tool-belt.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you and your child prepare to begin another school year!
To be a real hero today, consider donating to these worthwhile causes that work hard each and every day to end bullying, comfort victims of bullying, and make the world a better place:
Stand For The Silent
Small Acts Big Change
Stomp Out Bullying
Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center
To help young children (ages 4-8) understand the issue of bullying check out This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos. In a beautifully illustrated tale of a playground bully’s antics, readers discover that A. Blob and, perhaps others like it, may not be exactly what they seem. Through this story, children are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of another and consider what can be done to help bullies and the victims of bullying.
Let us know in the comments what your secret superhero name would be!
Books are a fantastic way to learn.
As we read, we begin to see ourselves and our own situations through those occurring on the page. Diving into adventures and immersing ourselves into created worlds, we hardly notice that lessons are being taught. Yes, books are an incredible teaching tool, and, as many parents and teachers have learned, the impact books have is compounded exponentially when combined with discussion and/or hands-on connective activities. We know this, so we bring you:
For those who may not know, This is A. Blob is a 20 page illustrated children’s book that explores the topic of bullying. Written by Lori Kefalos, author of several award-nominated animated shorts, This is A. Blob is the first of a series following the antics of A. Blob, a slimy, purple, blob-like creature who wreaks havoc on the elementary school playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, however, readers learn that there might be more to A. Blob than meets the eye. Along with its powerful illustrations and rhymed verse for early readers, this story invites children to put themselves in the shoes of another and encourages readers to consider why bullies behave the way they do – and start to consider what can be done to help.
This is A. Blob Slime is a craft designed to help kids make connections with the story, inspire conversations, and internalize the message of the book. With school just around the corner, this is the perfect craft to begin discussions about the bullying that children will often face as they walk the halls.
We did this craft with 3 different children: One boy, J, age 4, and two girls, S, age 7, and N, age 5.
First, we sat down and read the book together
As we read, we let the children make their own comments, prompting them occasionally with questions such as “How do you think A. Blob is making the children feel?” or “What would you do if you were on the playground?” This started the girls thinking more deeply about the story. After the story was finished, we talked a bit more about bullying and standing up to bullies. It was interesting to see the different personalities of the kids shine through in their reactions—a good reminder that all children view the world differently and as caretakers we must be sensitive to their unique needs as we teach and equip them to face that world.
Both S and N responded right way that A. Blob was a “big meany”. They quickly recognized that this was why it had no friends. S said she would befriend A. Blob because it was lonely and that’s why it was being mean. This is how she would help it to be nice and how she would stop the bullying. N took a more direct approach and stated she would tell A. Blob to “Stop! Just stop being mean!” With the book and conversations fresh in their minds, we moved into the kitchen to begin the craft. They were very excited to make A. Blob!
Step 1: Gather your materials
You will need: 1tsp Borax, ½ C warm water, 1 8oz bottle of glue, 2 nonstick mixing bowls, 2 spoons, food coloring, plastic baggies (This made enough goo for 3 people to have decent sized globs to play with)
Step 2: Mix your ingredients!
-Empty entire bottle of glue into mixing bowl
-Fill empty glue bottle with warm water and pour into bowl with glue; mix
-Add desired color to glue/water mixture
-In the second bowl, mix 1tsp Borax with ½ C warm water
-Slowly add the Borax mixture to the glue mixture. Use hands to finish mixing for best results
As we added our ingredients, we talked about the ingredients that make up a bully. What makes people act mean? I pointed out how, on their own, the ingredients were not sticky, but as they mixed, they created a big gooey blob, like A. Blob. In real life, our harsh words and mean actions mix together and add up to a big, sticky, mean mess that can hurt others badly. This seemed to make sense to them.
Step 3: Play and learn with your slime!
One interesting thing happened that I didn’t expect while we were making the slime and that was role playing. Once the goo was mixed, N picked it up and said “I’m a big mean blob! I’m going to throw punches and be mean!” We didn’t have too much time and the kids were very energetic, but I can see doing this again and having N play out a situation similar to when the girl was mean to her and using the role play to try to understand why she (or the blob) was being mean and what could be done to help the situation.
S made a connection to the book when I didn’t expect it, too. She picked up the goo and let it fall down and said “It has no form or shape”, quoting from the book. This allowed me to mention how liquids will take the shape of whatever container they’re in. Not only is this a scientific principle, it can be connected to the story by saying that maybe if the container is love and friendship, the blob will take on that shape and stop bullying. Isn’t it cool how kids will make their own learning connections that we never even thought of??
Another fun addition N and S thought of was to put faces on the plastic baggies (We put the goo in baggies after we were done playing with it, but if you have a kid who can never keep his craft on the table, putting it in a baggie from the get-go might be helpful!). This way, they could show how the blob was feeling. Neat! You could even have a “before” and “after” blob to show how A. Blob felt and acted before intervention and after.
Always looking for a teaching opportunity, I tried to sneak some science into the craft, too. Because we only had red and blue dye, we were able to reinforce that blue and red make purple. We also talked about how the Borax would react with the glue to make a new substance. We hypothesized about what would happen if we added more water or more Borax. N thought more water would make the mixture “purpler” =)
Overall, all three kids loved doing the craft. It was such a cool way to mix science, literature, and feelings. Reading the story opened up the discussion on bullying and the process of making the craft and playing with the tactile goo was a fun and useful tool to keep that discussion going. We were able to talk about the mean girl, how her actions made N feel, what we can do when we see someone being bullied, different reasons why people bully, and how even mean people (and blobs!) can change. The book and the craft ended up being great, nonthreatening ice breakers for a very difficult topic.
Bonus- the goo wipes off of surfaces very easily
Caution: It will stick to clothes. Make sure the kids are wearing something durable. The glue will wash out, but the food coloring might stain lighter clothing. I would recommend plastic aprons for more energetic children, just to be on the safe side.
As the school year draws near, consider picking up a copy of This is A. Blob and trying the craft out for yourself as a way to prepare your children for the bullying they may confront in class. Get creative and experiment, adding bits to the goo to represent different parts of the bully or writing a storyline for your blob. Share your results with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and let us know in the comments what books or activities you’ve used to introduce and discuss bullying with your kids!
Purchase This is A. Blob from our website or Amazon
While bullying has been an issue for many generations, technological advancements we have today leave people open to threats in the comfort of their own homes. With progress comes challenges and unfortunately cyber-bullying is a byproduct of this. However, this doesn’t mean that other bullying isn’t happening, because it is. Bullying can also happen at school and during extra curricular activities. Bullying can be the cause of depression and suicide, which is why many people are speaking out about it and advocating for a bully-free world. Thanks to HelpGuide.org, we have new insights on ways to cope with and prevent bullying.
Many times children being bullied wonder why they’re the ones being taunted. Victims might feel that something is wrong with them. HelpGuide.org helps us understand what goes on in a bully’s mind and it typically has nothing to do with the people they target. Those who bully can be jealous of the target, act out to become popular, stronger, or more powerful than the target, to escape their own problems, or because they’re being bullied themselves. If possible, instead of becoming more introverted, it can be helpful to look at the issue from a different light. The following are some tips for reframing the bullying situation to help regain a sense of control:
· Try to view bullying from a different perspective. The bully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
· Look at the big picture. Bullying can be extremely painful, but try asking yourself how important it will seem to you in the long run. Will it matter in a year? Is it worth getting so upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
· Focus on the positive. Reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. Make a list and refer to it whenever you feel down.
· Find the humor. If you’re relaxed enough to recognize the absurdity of a bullying situation, and to comment on it with humor, you’ll likely no longer be an interesting target for a bully.
· Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—including the behavior of other people. Rather than allowing interactions to cause undue stress, focus on the things you can control, such as the way you choose to react to bullies.
If you have children, walk through these steps with them and help them to understand how and why to implement each suggestion. Role-play different scenarios where one of you is the bully and one of you is being bullied. How do you feel in each scenario? Why do you think the other person is acting or reacting in that way?
Another great way to help children understand and cope with bullying is through literature. Books open the doors to discussion and allow children to see situations from a new perspective. Here are a couple books that show bullying from the perspective of the victim and the bully. These books encourage children to consider the views of others:
This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos
This picture book is the first in a series that follows the antics of a playground bully named A. Blob, a sticky blob of purple goo that wreaks havoc at school with its bullying ways. What is great about this book is that the bully is race and gender neutral, so children can project their own experiences into the story. As the story progresses, we learn that A. Blob has pain of its own and perhaps the acts of bullying are a cry for help. The text rhymes and the illustrations are beautiful, making this book a good tool for introducing bullying situations to young children.
The Weird Series by Erin Frankel
This is a series of 3 picture books, each showing the same bullying situation from 3 different perspectives (the bully, the victim, and the bystander). With each character getting her own book, children are able to get a more in-depth view of each situation than they might if everything was put into just one story. The Weird Series is geared for 8-11 year olds. Like This is A. Blob, The Weird Series is perfect for helping children to understand both the causes and effects of bullying.
Bullying is a difficult issue to deal with and understand. It’s complex, sticky, and nuanced. Thankfully it is not unsolvable. By using tools such as those provided by Helpguide.org and authors like L.A. Kefalos and Erin Frankel, we can help children to gain a new perspective on bullying, understand the issue, and begin to end bullying once and for all.
What tools have you used to help children understand the issue of bullying? What helped you to gain a new perspective? Share your experiences in the comments or talk with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!
Purchase This is A. Blob from our website, or check it out on Amazon!
See the trailer for This is A. Blob
Purchase The Weird Series
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
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