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A child is never too young to begin learning about kindness as demonstrated by parents says Wendy Poth, MSW, a Kansas City-based clinical social worker. Experts widely agree that the foundation for healthy social skills begins building at birth. By the time children are ready to participate in playgroups, nursery and kindergarten classes, the most fundamental social behaviors have already been instilled.

1. Open The Lines Of Communication

On the subject of bullying, Poth suggests parents open the lines of communication before a child is exposed to a bully to make it easier for a conversation to occur when something does happens. Poth suggests that it’s important for parents to have preventative conversations, beginning with understanding what bullying is. We wouldn’t wait for an accident to occur before warning about the dangers of leaving shoelaces left untied or running at the swimming pool. Think of a potential bullying encounter in much the same way; providing a child with essential skills is critical since “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cures,” as Benjamin Franklin once put it. Don’t wait for the problem to arise.

2. Define Bullying

Poth suggests that parents read and discuss age-appropriate books on the subject with their children. Recommended books and web-based learning about bullying and friendship are available from PACER, Scholastic and other educational groups. Teaching a child how to recognize what bullying is, and is not, is critical for creating awareness. Since 2006, October has been slated as National Bullying Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and change the culture around bullying to one of zero tolerance. “The end of bullying begins with you” motto is designed to help children tackle the problem by bringing it down to scale.

3. Telling An Adult Is Not Tattling

Poth advises that first and foremost, “Children must be assured that telling an adult if they’re being picked on, taunted or teased is not tattle-tale behavior.” Poth says it’s quite the opposite in fact, because bullying is never OK. “A bully’s power tool revolves around controlling victims by getting them to believe that informing is wrong. Kids should know that allowing a code of silence to exist is not an option. Adults should explain that getting someone into trouble is not the same thing as getting someone out of trouble,” Poth says. 

4. What Friendship Means

Children should also know that speaking up is important whenever they see someone else being hurt, excluded or ridiculed. Inclusiveness is paramount, and small acts of kindness go a long way. Parents should teach a child that friendship means offering kind words of support to the victim, letting them know they are not alone and suggesting a willingness to go with them to inform. To do so on behalf of someone else without their knowledge and cooperation is not the right way forward, Poth says, as it can backfire on the victim.

5. Kindness Breeds Kindness

Wendy has encouraged children to smile and say hello to someone outside their own circle of friends every day. When a social setting has an atmosphere of inclusiveness, it’s extremely difficult for bullying to occur in the first place. Some schools have reported great success by installing a buddy bench as an effective, non-verbal solution for anyone feeling left out in the school playground.

Wendy Poth reminds us that while some children may feel bullied, other children might be exhibiting bully behavior, but not recognizing it as such. Always ask your child whether they feel like they do fit in with their peer group, because not fitting in can contribute to trouble on either side of the problem.

This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via Examiner.com for CBS Local Media.